Murder Under the Bridge is a compelling and unique murder mystery. Written by Kate Jessica Raphael, an American with intimate knowledge of Palestine under Israeli occupation, this novel provides a glimpse behind the Wall dividing Palestine from the rest of the world. The action begins when Rania, a Palestinian woman police detective, discovers the body of a woman stranger on the outskirts of her village. The magic is not only in the message, but in the medium as well: a detective thriller is a palatable and effective way to reveal the minutia of the lives that the Conflict distorts. The author delves into the intricacies of relationships across genders, ethnicities, nationalities, generations, and most of all, the Occupiers and the Occupied.
The richness of the book is in the details, from the taxi system in Israel and Palestine, to the checkpoints that inflict daily humiliation on the residents of the West Bank. Raphael explores the subtleties by which trust and community are solidified or dismantled. By interjecting snippets of Arabic and Hebrew (immediately translated, but a glossary is included at the back of the book), we get insight into how knowledge of these two languages, along with English, plays out in the power struggles under Occupation. For example, Rania does not let on that she understands Hebrew, giving her a slight edge in conversations with her Israeli counterparts.
Prison is an ever-present and defining fact of life in Palestine, generation after generation. One prisoner Fareed, when accepting coffee from a jailer, “tried not to hate himself for his weakness. He had grown up on the stories of his father’s interrogations.” Betrayal and manipulation compound the struggle of people, especially women, to live their lives. Raphael manages to convey all of this without, for one second, lecturing. It flows from the action and the graphic descriptions.
Kate Jessica Raphael’s political and creative life changed after she spent eighteen months between 2002 and 2005 volunteering in Palestine through the International Women's Peace Service. During the writing of this, her first novel, she augmented her closely observed impressions with, she says, “the work of Israeli feminist and labor groups … and a detailed map of the area.” Raphael’s tasks as a volunteer included documenting human rights violations and accompanying Palestinians in their daily chores, using her international status to protect them. Out of Raphael’s intimacy with the Palestinian community comes this illuminating, exciting detective thriller that opens with a Murder Under the Bridge.