The Disappearing Dowry
by Libi Astaire
Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes when a crime wave sweeps through 19th-century London’s Jewish community and the adventures of wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Ezra Melamed are recorded for posterity by Miss Rebecca Lyon, a young lady not quite at the marriageable age.
In this first volume of the series, the Lyon family of London is eagerly preparing for the wedding of their eldest daughter, Hannah. But before Mr. Lyon can lead Hannah to the marriage canopy, he suffers a crushing blow. In the blink of an eye his entire fortune is lost. Not only has his bank gone bankrupt, but someone has broken into his fashionable clock-making shop and stolen the last of his money.
The Lyons are on the verge of despair when help arrives from an unexpected source: Mr. Ezra Melamed, a wealthy widower and benefactor of London’s Jewish community. To help Mr. Lyon recover his fortune, Mr. Melamed must go beyond London’s fashionable streets and search for clues in the darkest places. But with only a key, a button, and a few cryptic words from a Chassidic Rebbe to guide him, can he restore the disappearing dowry to its rightful owners, before the Lyon family faces total ruin?
(Word count 44,000; ebook $6.99 USD; print $9.99 USD)
Reviews of The Disappearing Dowry
“This historical detective story takes place in England in 1810, with a voice styled in the manner of Jane Austen. As in some of Austen’s works, the family of the bride—the theft of whose dowry forms the backbone of the plot—exist on the edge of the upper class, and many of their interactions revolve around family economics and marital prospects. However, this book introduces us to characters from all the corners of London’s Jewish society, from its wealthy benefactors, to merchants and artisans, and down to its own crew of pickpockets. We see that Jews in the community lived many different lives. One of the book’s strengths as a work of historical fiction is that it moves beyond just “local color,” weaving a plot that depends on events in British and Jewish history that may not be well-known to US readers, but which were integral to the experiences of early 19th century Jews. —Naomi Morse, Jewish Book World
“The book is a real Whodunnit, but with an extra twist – it’s written from a Jewish perspective. … We’re constantly reminded that our hero is not a hardened sleuth but a Torah scholar with a heart, fully aware of his role and responsibilities in the unfolding drama. … This is an admirable undertaking, and we look forward to many more in this intriguing series.” — Miriam Kay, The Jewish Tribune, London
“In this highly engaging and captivating story, the reader is held spellbound as the narrator spins the tale of the near tragedy that almost befell her family … The story depicts an historical period not often seen in Jewish fiction and most importantly, demonstrates the efforts the Jewish community will go to in assisting one of its own during times of great trouble. This is a delightful book and an easy and quick read. I highly recommend it for all Jewish libraries.” —Forwordsbooks.com