Krich, then 13, saw her father with an elegantly dressed woman beside a baby carriage holding a baby girl. "'That's Gusta, your father's first wife,' my mother said quietly when I showed her the photos," Krich recalls. "Those are his daughters, Yiska and Ruzza. They were all killed in Auschwitz."
Krich, dumbfounded, had not known that her father had been married before. "I couldn't get out of my mind the uncomfortable knowledge that if Gusta hadn't perished, I wouldn't exist," says the award-winning author, who is known as an Orthodox Agatha Christie.
Over the years, Krich's thrillers have focused on a fertility doctor who has strayed from Orthodoxy ("Fertile Ground'); a maniacal husband who won't give his wife a get ("'Til Death Do Us Part'); and an LAPD Detective, Jessie Drake, who discovers that her mother was a hidden child during the Holocaust. Krich says she unconsciously named Jessie after one of her murdered stepsisters, Yiska.
Now Jessie returns in "Blood Money," which is based in part on the war experiences of Krich's own father, Abraham Majer. In the novel, an elderly survivor, Norman Pomerantz, is found murdered in Rancho Park; his death may have something to do with the Jewish assets that were plundered by the Nazis and deposited in Swiss banks. Jessie, in turn, discovers she may have her own family connection to the Swiss banks scandal.
Writing "Blood Money," Krich says, was a cathartic way to explore her feelings about her father's first family. Like Majer, the fictional Pomerantz tells of the last time he ever saw his wife and children: "They were being taken away on a train. His wife had his little girl wave to him and he waved. That haunts me," Krich says. -- Naomi Pfefferman, Entertainment Editor