So what's an overtired and understimulated mother to do? Butt into other people's business, of course! Juliet delves into the diappearance of an eighteen-year-old Chasidic girl named Fraydle Finkelstein, who baby sat for Juliet's kids on one occasion, and who then disappeared without a trace.
Juliet uses her investigative powers, her contacts from her working days as a lawyer, and her innate nosiness to solve the question of what happened to Fraydle. Did the girl run away to avoid an arranged marriage she didn't want? Or did something more sinister happen to her? Since her parents refuse to report Freydle's disappearance to the police, Juliet feels that it is her duty to investigate.
When Juliet visits her mother and father in New Jersey, she even takes a side trip to Borough Park, Brooklyn. She interviews Freydle's prospective bridegroom, and little by little, she fits the pieces together until, voila, she solves the crime.
Waldman has a wry and clever sense of humor, and there are many laugh-out-loud passages in "The Big Nap." In fact, the first page has such a funny scene that I laughed out loud on a public bus and drew puzzled looks from my fellow passengers. Waldman's takes on breastfeeding, sleep-and-husband deprivation, weight gain after pregnancy and a mother's love-hate relationship with her small children are not only funny but real.
The mystery is not too believable, nor is it realistic that any Chasid would give Juliet the time of day, much less reveal any inside information to her. However, the conceit of mysteries like this is that people talk to the investigator, even if she has no business asking any questions in the first place.
However, Waldman nicely describes some of the dynamics of the Chasidic community from the vantage point of a non-Orthodox Jew. The mystery is engrossing, if somewhat far-fetched, and you could do worse than spend an afternoon with the amusing Juliet Applebaum, mommy and sleuth.
I enjoyed the first book in this series but felt it had some flaws. This book was much stronger and the same flaws didn't plague this book. It has a fun sense of humor, and while I felt Juliet complained a bit too much at times, I appreciated her love for her family which still came through. The plot is better developed here, although why this woman would search for this girl is beyond me. Even Juliet acknowledges that it doesn't make much sense.
I'm glad I've been collecting the paperbacks as they've come out. I won't wait so long to revisit Juliet and her family.
Her books will also make great gifts. There is no offensive language, graphic sex or violence that might offend readers, and her humor is warm and engaging.
One of the scenes in The Big Nap that I particularly enjoyed is when Juliet (the protagonist) is confronted by a thuggish gang of Hasidic men, warning her to mind her own business.
If you appreciate a mystery told with warmth, humor, and peceptive insights into human character, I recommend this book.