The Eighth Veil
A girl is drowned and her throat cut in the baths of Herod’s palace in 28 CE. Her killer fails to retrieve her pendant, his primary goal, when interrupted by an elderly watchman. So opens Ramsay’s mystery, but the delight lies in his “sleuth,” Chief Rabbi Gamaliel, who applies Talmudic reasoning to the racy circumstances, mired in political intrigue, royal scandal, and power grabs in Jerusalem.
Ramsay’s impressive accomplishment is that he gives us a thrilling tale with complex history and rabbinic thought without for a minute weighing down his story or letting up on the pace. He lets you into the rabbinic mind so that you understand why, for example, a simple detail like why she was killed in two ways — drowning and slitting — leads the traditional thinking sleuth toward the killer. Readers will enjoy some familiar peripheral characters: for example, a country rabbi from Nazareth whose preaching has the Temple’s high priest whining in Gamaliel’s ear to put an end to the rabbi’s rabble-rousing. Jesus inadvertently plays a role, yet another “veil” Gamaliel has to lift to uncover the killer.