Celebrating Jewish Literature: Two mysteries and a thriller

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman
The Reporter Group

  • The least Jewish content: “Karl Marx, Private Eye” 

Confession time: the only Jewish character in this mystery is Karl Marx, who considered himself an atheist. That would make his daughter, Eleanor, another character in the novel, Jewish by patrilineal descent. Since nothing connected to Judaism happens in Jim Feast’s “Karl Marx, Private Eye” (PM Press), why did I ask for a review copy? How could I resist a book that calls Marx a private eye and includes a 16-year-old Sherlock Holmes? Yes, that Sherlock Holmes, as in the character from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. 

The title of the book is misleading: Marx does not actually work as a private eye. Instead he and the young Sherlock look to solve several murders that take place at a Bohemian spa. Although Marx and Eleanor have befriended the youth, they keep him at arm’s length because they are staying at the spa under assumed names since authorities consider Marx a radical troublemaker. The question becomes which of the characters will be able to uncover the true killer and the reason behind the murders.

“Karl Marx, Private Eye” definitely is not a contemporary action-packed private detective novel. The writing style is old-fashioned as if to mimic writers from Doyle’s time period. There’s also a great deal of philosophical discussion. I managed to guess the murderer, mostly by process of elimination. I was not sure every question was successfully answered, but that’s a minor quibble. Although the novel moved very slowly, it was good fun to read about Eleanor, an unusual woman for her time period, and see Feast’s idea of how young Sherlock developed the skills he used so well later in his life.