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Fatal FictionsCrime and Investigation in Law and Literature$
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Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.001.0001

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Sleuthing toward Bethlehem

Sleuthing toward Bethlehem

Oxford’s Tamar, Jerusalem’s Ohayon, and Historical Devices in Detective Fiction

Chapter:
(p.275) 15 Sleuthing toward Bethlehem
Source:
Fatal Fictions
Author(s):

Steven Wilf

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.003.0015

Chapter 15 focuses on criminal suspicion and investigation in the context of the detective novel. Wilf argues that detective novels make it possible to see what often eludes criminal trials: the labyrinth of criminal psychology, a fully developed social context, and the lasting effects of the criminal act as social rupture. Drawing the parallel to legal history Wilf asks what the gaze of the legal historian might bring to understanding criminality. To answer this question he examines two fictional detectives who are also historians. The Israeli author Batya Gur’s protagonist, Michael Ohayon, is a Sephardic Jew who was trained in history at the largely Western European Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Ohayon novels revolve around the determination of the social norms of a particular segment of society and the knowledge that the violation of deeply held norms might lead to murder. The British novelist Sarah Caudwell’s quintessential Oxford don, Hilary Tamar, is a fussy and pedantic legal historian, acutely aware of the interpretive intricacy of medieval English legal documents.

Keywords:   detective novels, criminal psychology, criminal mind, legal history, Batya Gur, Sarah Caudwell

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