“Do you know why there are no detective novels in Hebrew?” Inspector Avraham Avraham asks a mother who’s come in to report a missing boy. “Because we don’t have crimes like that. We don’t have serial killers, we don’t have kidnappings…here when a crime is committed, it’s usually the neighbor, the uncle, the grandfather, and there’s no need for a complex investigation to find the criminal and clear up the mystery. The explanation is always the simplest.”
With these words, Avraham sends the mother home, assuring her that her son, 16 year old Ofer Sherabi, has no doubt simply gone out with friends and not told her, and that he’ll probably be home by the time she gets back. And this sparks a most frustrating case for the detective, because Ofer Sherabi does not turn up, and he has disappeared without a trace. There’s no sign he could have run away, he was an introverted child without many friends, and he even left his phone behind.
Avraham is an unusual detective. He lives alone, buys his dinner at Safeway, has an uneasy relationship with his parents, is prone to self-doubt and jealousy of his more flashy and confident colleagues. Although he is presented by a supervisor as an excellent detective, in this novel we see him as filled with doubts, making poor decisions, and misreading suspects and missing the solution.
The Missing File has a second narrator, Ofer’s neighbour and former tutor Ze’ev Avni. Ze’ev takes a great interest in the missing boy, and feeds the police several clues that don’t prove to initially be too helpful. The point of view moves back and forth between the detective and the neighbor.
Will Avraham’s comment about the lack of Hebrew detective novels prove to have been insightful? The case plods on, with no one having seen or heard anything, until the missing boy begins to haunt Avraham’s dreams. The end, spinning off the most improbable of events, is followed by another ending, and points back to Avraham’s own habit of studying detective novels and watching crime shows while seeing what the detective in the story has missed.
The Missing File is a literary mystery, with as much time spent musing on writing and the nature of detection as on the actual case. I wouldn’t say I loved this book, but I will say that I liked it enough to want to read all the rest in the series. This is the first one, and I look forward to seeing what Avraham will do in the future.