September 27, 2002

Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry, by Harry Kemelman

I had to come up for a breath of air after reading Stowe so I searched around on the bookshelf for a likely looking mystery. The David Small "Rabbi" series have been around for quite a while and, my friend the local bookstore owner had recommended them to me a while back so I thought, what the hey, I'll give this one a try. Rabbi and detective are two words I normally donít associate in the same thought so if detectives have a "gimmick" and they usually do, then this sounded at least unique.

Rabbi Small is a young rabbinical scholar serving as Rabbi to a small congregation in Barnard Crossings, a small town in Massachusetts. The synagogue is fairly new and serves Orthodox, Reform and Conservative believers, giving Rabbi Small a thin line to tread when dealing with the politics of the congregation. On the eve of Yom Kippur, a man is found dead in his garage of carbon monoxide poisoning. His wife, a Gentile, wants him buried in the Jewish cemetery with Jewish rights since he had been raised a Jew. The police have ruled it accidental death due to the alcohol content of his blood, but the insurance company comes sniffing around making noises about suicide and the suicide clause in his policy. And if he had killed himself, his burial in the Jewish cemetery would make the rest of the land "unclean" which really ticks off an elderly Orthodox Jew who's wife is buried there and who is also about to donate a pile of money for a new chapel addition to the synagogue. It gets much more convoluted and complex from there but the upshot is that Rabbi Small must figure out if it was suicide, accidental death or murder. And he uses Talmudic logic to work his way thru the puzzle.

I whipped right thru this one. The reading is easy and the story moves along fast enough to keep the pages turning without losing any detail in the process. I found the details about the Jewish faith and customs to be interesting as well and was amused to find that Synagogue politics and Church politics, as depicted by Trollope, are not all that different. I may have to look for more of these to keep on hand when I need a good, light book.

Posted by Deb English at September 27, 2002 07:34 PM