Discussion Questions: The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman

Cover of The Ritual BathTitle: The Ritual Bath
Author: Faye Kellerman
Page Count: 374 pages
Genre:  Mystery
Tone: Atmospheric, Suspenseful

Summary:
Detective Peter Decker is stunned when he learns one of the women in a remote yeshiva community in the California hills was brutally raped as she returned from the mikvah, the bathhouse where the cleansing ritual is performed and Rina Lazarus is also the only one in the sheltered community willing to speak of this unspeakable violation. As Rina tries to steer Decker through the maze of religious laws the two grow closer. Before they get to the bottom of this horrendous crime, revelations come to light that are so shocking that they threaten to come between the hard-nosed cop and the deeply religious woman with whom he has become irrevocably linked.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. Did the author do a good job describing the yeshiva and the mikvah? Did you learn something about the Orthodox Jewish faith that you didn’t know before?

2. What was it about Rina Lazarus that Detective Decker was attracted to? What did you think of him when he fantasized about her being out of yeshiva context?

3. Did the author do a good job of describing the feelings of attraction that both Rina and Detective Decker had toward each other?

4. How did Rina try to discourage Detective Decker from being involved with her? Were there any ways she encouraged him?

5. Were you surprised at how open Rina was with Decker about her religion and why it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to go out with each other?

6. How do Rina and Detective Decker’s decisions affect their own lives and the lives of other characters in the book?

7. Was it believable that Decker’s biological parents were Jewish? Or does it seem too contrived?

8. Did you suspect that Moshe was the rapist/murderer? Were the Jewish people in the Yeshiva blinded by their faith while searching for clues/suspects?

9. Did the author do a good job of planting clues and developing the suspects?

10. Did you guess who the rapist was? Was the rapist a surprise?

11. Was it necessary to have Mrs. Marley, the security guard, murdered?

12. What was the author trying to accomplish with this mystery novel? (Begin a series? Provide entertainment? Send a message?)

13. Is the novel believable?

14. This is classified as a mystery novel. Do you think the mystery was the main point of the novel, or was it the relationship between Rina and Detective Decker?

15. What was the books greatest strength or most serious flaw?

16. How has the author set the book up to continue the series? Have any of you read further in the series? Do you plan on reading other books in this series?

Other Resources

What is a ritual bath?
Article: Reclaiming and re-imagining the ritual bath in 2015
Book discussion resources
Detective Decker and Rina Lazarus series order

If you liked The Ritual Bath, try

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In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman
When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman