Sachs's mystery reviewed
Thursday, September 19, 2002 6:31:00 AM
by Harley L Sachs
|Marquette Monthly, an Upper Peninsula of Michigan newspapers, has reviewed Harley Sachs's new mystery.
Andrew J. Grgurich, writing for Marquette Monthly, Sept. 15, 2002:
Ben Zakkai’s Coffin by Harley L. Sachs, Zumaya Publications, 229 pp.
2002 ISBN 1-894869-20-6, quality paperback, $15.00.
As I recall, it wasn’t too long ago that I wondered why more mystery
stories weren’t being written by and about people in the Upper
Peninsula. This week’s book is not about the Upper Peninsula, but it is
certainly by an Upper Peninsula author. This week’s title is Ben
Zakkai"s Coffin. The name Harley Sachs may be familiar to some readers of
the column. He was reviewed here as long ago as 1996. That book Threads
of the Covenant was a collection of short stories about Jewish life in
the Upper Peninsula.
This book is entirely different. I’m immediately faced with a problem
though. With most books I can summarize the plot without anyone being
bothered. In fact, with some books, people insist upon knowing what
they’re about before they read them. With a mystery, however, neither
the author or the readers would appreciate it if I gave away the suprises
of the plot.
That being the case, I’ll content myself with quoting from the back of
the book, "Born of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Herman Bachrach
insists he has no religion, but he is drawn by circumstance into a
holocaust vendetta over gold stolen by a Swiss bank from Jewish
Seduced by a woman who calls herself Diana, Herman is suspected by
detective Sheehan to be her murderer. Someone else wants him dead. His
Jewish boss provides him with a lawyer but sends him to Switzerland to
finish the job Diana started. It is an assignment he can’t refuse. The
result is an epiphany of identity that changes Herman’s life forever."
Sachs, besides being a novelist has also written short stories, magazine
articles, and newspaper columns. His short stories has been broadcast on
Oregon radio’s Golden Hours and on the BBC World Service shortwave
service. In fact, I heard one of his short stories broadcast on the BBC
Sachs is best known in the Copper Country as a former professor at
Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. While there he
and his wife Ulla raised three daughters. Now that he is retired he
divides his time between Michigan and Portland, Oregon. He has also lived
in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Scotland. He met and married his wife in
Stockholm, Sweden and then spent a year’s honeymoon in a Scottish
castle.(I’m sure there is an interesting story about how that came
As I was reading this book, I was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock. How often
in Hitchcock’s movies has some innocent person been sucked into danger
and intrigue to no fault of his own. Sachs mentions in passing, a
Hitchcock movie that he doesn’t name, that I know to be North by
Northwest, where this very thing happens. It is a common theme with
Hitchcock. One of his movies, in fact, is called The Wrong Man.
Herman Bachrach is in some sense the wrong man in the wrong place or so
he thinks. Hitchcock would, no doubt, have made an interesting film
showing how this ordinary part time photographer for a group of banking
magazines soon finds himself in serious trouble to no serious fault of
We also meet a gallery of other characters good and bad who influence
Herman’s life. It’s not always easy to tell the good from the bad so be
on your guard while reading this book. I’m happy to say that everything
develops logically. As I said above I^Òm not going to go into the detail
about the mystery. I will give you one clue, however, you’ll find the
title of the book, Ben Zakkai’s Coffin, useful in solving one of the
central mysteries of the book.
I do have to warn you choose carefully when you start reading this book
because you may not want to put it down once you’ve started it. I think
you will find it an exciting adventure based in some ways by recent
events involving Switzerland and the holocaust. The author is careful
though to point out the Swiss Bank described in the book is an invention
of the author, and the book is a work of fiction. Some Swiss might not be
entirely happy with how their country is depicted, but after all history
is what it is. You’ll enjoy this story.
This book should be available in book and gift stores throughout the
area. For more information about this book and other writings by Harley
Sachs you may visit his website(www.hu.mtu.edu/~hlsachs)or write to him
at IDEVCO Intellectual Properties, The Idea Development Company, 113 West
Houghton Avenue, Houghton, Michigan 49931.