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Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

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Rabbi David Small, the new leader of Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community, can't even enjoy his Sabbath without things getting stirred up in a most unorthodox manner: It seems a young nanny has been found strangled, less than a hundred yards from the Temple's parking lot -- and all the evidence poi Rabbi David Small, the new leader of Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community, can't even enjoy his Sabbath without things getting stirred up in a most unorthodox manner: It seems a young nanny has been found strangled, less than a hundred yards from the Temple's parking lot -- and all the evidence poi


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Rabbi David Small, the new leader of Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community, can't even enjoy his Sabbath without things getting stirred up in a most unorthodox manner: It seems a young nanny has been found strangled, less than a hundred yards from the Temple's parking lot -- and all the evidence poi Rabbi David Small, the new leader of Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community, can't even enjoy his Sabbath without things getting stirred up in a most unorthodox manner: It seems a young nanny has been found strangled, less than a hundred yards from the Temple's parking lot -- and all the evidence poi

30 review for Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

  1. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    After a slow start, the Rabbi came through. A red herring or two, a couple of likable characters, and a not-incompetent police chief made for some interesting stops along the way. It begins with a group of Jewish men, waiting for the tenth so that they can start morning prayers. “The rabbi… strolled up and down the center aisle, not impatiently, but like a man who has arrived early at the railroad station. Snatches of conversation reached him: talk about business, about family and children, about After a slow start, the Rabbi came through. A red herring or two, a couple of likable characters, and a not-incompetent police chief made for some interesting stops along the way. It begins with a group of Jewish men, waiting for the tenth so that they can start morning prayers. “The rabbi… strolled up and down the center aisle, not impatiently, but like a man who has arrived early at the railroad station. Snatches of conversation reached him: talk about business, about family and children, about vacation plans, about the chances of the Red Sox. It was hardly the proper conversation for men waiting to pray, he thought, and then immediately rebuked himself. Was it not also a sin to be too devout? Was not man expected to enjoy the good things of this life? the pleasure of family? of work–and of resting from work? He was still very young, not quite thirty, and introspective, so that he could not help raising questions, and then questioning the questions.” Interestingly, despite being the titular character, we don’t spend as much time as I expected with the rabbi. Instead, the third person limited narration is shared. We spend a few scenes with Mr. Wasserman, “the elderly president of the congregation,” as he tends to the question of whether or not they will renew the rabbi’s contract for another year. There’s also a couple of chapters from the very-much-alive Elspeth Bleech, who unfortunately will not be alive much longer, as well as a couple centering on the temperamental Al Becker, car dealership owner, and Stanley Doble, chief maintenance man for the temple. Even more interesting is that it takes so long to get to the actual murder (spoiler: chapter something, for those with bad memories). Definitely a different pace than what I’m accustomed to. Between the viewpoints that act almost like character studies and the pacing, it felt a little be more like an exploration of life in a small town. What really sets it apart is the focus on Jewish culture, in the ethnic, cultural and religious senses. Though the rabbi is young, he finds he’s often in the role of instructing much older members of his congregation. In fact, early on in the story, there’s a dispute among two members and Wasserman encourages them to bring it to the rabbi. The rabbi suggests a Din Torah, which is a hearing, or judgement, on the case, using the Talmud as a reference for the principles of damage and responsibility. It becomes an interesting little example of the dynamics of how the rabbi works and the dynamics of the members of the synagogue. Unsurprisingly, issues of ethnical and religious perception by the community at large continue to be raised throughout the story. For a 1965 book, it remains rather sedate, but shows the degree to which communities are often intolerant of the ‘Other,’ particularly when it reminds them of their own failures. There’s a few easy plot points–I won’t list, for risk of spoilers, but I thought them tolerable (view spoiler)[the rabbi was never really under deep suspicion, which was interesting. And the police chief made friends with him practically instantly, which seems problematic during an investigation (hide spoiler)] . I was surprised at the murderer, so good on Kemelman for that. I remember seeing these books when I was a kid, in the paperback carousel at the library. Since the Rabbi series has been around since1964, I can’t say for certain if I ever read any of the books. But with an e-deal on a four-box set (I don’t even know what that means), I had a feeling it would be worth it. I’m glad that I have three more in store. Three and a half stars, rounding down so I have somewhere to go for the next. And the pacing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Out of an entirely random find at the library, I've found a great little mystery series. The charm of this book was not so much in the mystery itself, which was middling, but in the Jewish culture portrayed and explained and in the character of Rabbi Small, who is a naive but clever intellectual with out of the box solutions to Temple matters and murder mysteries. Out of an entirely random find at the library, I've found a great little mystery series. The charm of this book was not so much in the mystery itself, which was middling, but in the Jewish culture portrayed and explained and in the character of Rabbi Small, who is a naive but clever intellectual with out of the box solutions to Temple matters and murder mysteries.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I was skimming through my TBR shelf and having a hard time deciding what to read next. Although I had read this a long time ago I had picked it up when I saw it on sale at Amazon. It is a short book (208 pages) and I decided now was a good time to reread this gem. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late was published in 1964 and won a 1965 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. At the time it was a huge bestseller and was the beginning of a new series ... the Rabbi Small mysteries. One of the charms of the book w I was skimming through my TBR shelf and having a hard time deciding what to read next. Although I had read this a long time ago I had picked it up when I saw it on sale at Amazon. It is a short book (208 pages) and I decided now was a good time to reread this gem. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late was published in 1964 and won a 1965 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. At the time it was a huge bestseller and was the beginning of a new series ... the Rabbi Small mysteries. One of the charms of the book was not only do we have a mystery but the opportunity to learn something about Jewish culture. David Small is the rabbi in the small Massachusetts town of Barnard’s Crossing. He is young and relatively new having been there for about one year. In fact his contract is up renewal. He has supporters but there are those who do not see him as their view of what a rabbi should be. When the body of a young nanny, Elspeth Bleech, is found on the temple property and her purse in the rabbi's car he becomes a suspect in the crime. Hugh Lanigan is the Irish-Catholic police chief of Barnard’s Crossing and initially questions Rabbi Small because Elspeth Bleech's body was found on the temple grounds and her purse was in his car. But a bond develops between the two and what appears to be the start of a friendship. They have several enjoyable and scholarly conversations. When things start turning nasty in the small town Rabbi Small employs his Talmudic wisdom and scholarly skill to solve the crime and reveal the identify of the murderer. Although this story centers around the murder of a young woman there is not a lot of violence. The crime itself is described briefly and only out of necessity. Rabbi Small is a very likable character as is Hugh Lanigan. There are several characters who are not so likable so you are left guessing which one may be the murderer. Overall this was a very enjoyable little mystery. In the summertime perhaps a nice choice for a beach read. Or a good bedtime read at anytime. Now that I have read this I am going to have to read Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    2019 reread: I very much enjoyed rereading this first Rabbi Small mystery despite the fact that I suddenly remembered who the murderer was halfway through. Now (finally) on to the next book in the series. 2015 review of library hardcover edition (1964 edition): 4½ stars. I had been vaguely aware of this series before but hadn't paid it much attention until I was introduced to the Guardian newspaper's list of 1000 Novels Everyone Should Read and found this first book of the series in the Crime secti 2019 reread: I very much enjoyed rereading this first Rabbi Small mystery despite the fact that I suddenly remembered who the murderer was halfway through. Now (finally) on to the next book in the series. 2015 review of library hardcover edition (1964 edition): 4½ stars. I had been vaguely aware of this series before but hadn't paid it much attention until I was introduced to the Guardian newspaper's list of 1000 Novels Everyone Should Read and found this first book of the series in the Crime section. I am so glad that I finally read this! I found the rabbi David Small very likeable, although he played a smaller part in the story than I expected. The relationship between the Catholic chief of police and the Jewish rabbi promises to be an ongoing pleasure. I hadn't realized until I started reading this that it was set in Massachusetts, which as a MA native is a plus for me. The mystery itself was excellently crafted. The pointers to the culprit were there yet the revelation of who it was still surprised me (even though I had noticed one of the biggest clues!).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shira Glassman

    Aww, cool, it's a midcentury whodunit like all those Christies I love, only, CENTERING JEWS! (which I was very in the mood for since with all of Christie's good qualities, she does have some ickiness about us in one or two books.) I loved how it was a puzzle mystery, right up my alley, and FULL of suspects. The "detective" is a young rabbi with a passion for Talmudic justice, which is itself sort of a puzzle mystery, isn't it? You see who he is right from the beginning, since it opens with him ha Aww, cool, it's a midcentury whodunit like all those Christies I love, only, CENTERING JEWS! (which I was very in the mood for since with all of Christie's good qualities, she does have some ickiness about us in one or two books.) I loved how it was a puzzle mystery, right up my alley, and FULL of suspects. The "detective" is a young rabbi with a passion for Talmudic justice, which is itself sort of a puzzle mystery, isn't it? You see who he is right from the beginning, since it opens with him having to solve a very modern dispute between two temple members, formerly friends, which he chooses to do with ancient logic that works out pretty well. The mystery itself, as I said, has tons of suspects and some really convincing red herrings. Some warnings if you decide to dip your toes in -- some of the chapters nearest the end feature some anti-Semitism that the community is suffering because the mystery hasn't been solved yet. It'll be okay, just know that it's there so it doesn't catch you by surprise like it did me. Additional TW: homicide of pregnant woman.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I actually really enjoyed this cozy mystery! Never even knew it was a book, let alone a series, until this month. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late kind of gave me Agatha Christie vibes. Mostly because the whole mystery was from everyone's POV. Of course, the main suspect is the Rabbi himself but he did a wonderful job helping the police and everyone else come to the right conclusion. Now I'm not Jewish but my cousin did marry someone who is. That being said, I still know next to nothing about Judaism I actually really enjoyed this cozy mystery! Never even knew it was a book, let alone a series, until this month. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late kind of gave me Agatha Christie vibes. Mostly because the whole mystery was from everyone's POV. Of course, the main suspect is the Rabbi himself but he did a wonderful job helping the police and everyone else come to the right conclusion. Now I'm not Jewish but my cousin did marry someone who is. That being said, I still know next to nothing about Judaism so I was really intrigued to see how things were going to go down in this book. The one thing that really upset me was the whole swastika on the door. Mostly because, I could see that happening even today. The world is filled with cruelty and racism - which just makes me heart so sad. In the end, I'm intrigued enough to dive into the next book of this series!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK 59 (of 250) This Edgar Award Winning Novel has some good things going for it, but the best thing is that it's just a solid, rather short, straight-up crime story. This work is "Christie-cozy", anyone of any age can enjoy it. There is no overt violence, nothing absolutely shocking. And, oh, what I didn't know about the Jewish faith but do now! HOOK = 3 stars: The opening lines are as follows>>>>> "They sat in the chapel and waited. They were still COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK 59 (of 250) This Edgar Award Winning Novel has some good things going for it, but the best thing is that it's just a solid, rather short, straight-up crime story. This work is "Christie-cozy", anyone of any age can enjoy it. There is no overt violence, nothing absolutely shocking. And, oh, what I didn't know about the Jewish faith but do now! HOOK = 3 stars: The opening lines are as follows>>>>> "They sat in the chapel and waited. They were still only nine, and they were waiting for the tenth so that they could begin morning prayers. The elderly president of the congregation, Jacob Wasserman, was wearing his phylacteries, and the young rabbi, David Small, who had just arrived, was putting his on."<<<<< I was stumped here a bit, as I know very little about Jewish practices. In those first few sentences though, I did learn much. I liked that. But with only "They sat in the chapel and waited," the author smartly gives us a good reason to read on and communicates to us, seemingly, that something big is on the way. Like I've already said, this is a simple, straight forward book and it starts just that way.... PACE=4:...and moves quickly to a murder, and if you have a few free hours, it could be a one-sit read. Almost everything centers right on the crime, even the opening argument between 2 temple members which occurs before the murder, but tells us how Rabbi Small thinks and how he will solve the crime. PLOT =4: A body is found near the Temple's parking lot. And, the murder apparently occurred late at night while Rabbi Small was in the Temple, alone and studying, with no alibi. The author seldom strays from this central conceit, but does talk about other faiths and how the murder might be seen by, say, the Catholics in the neighborhood. A few bits of incorrect Jewish folklore are discussed and discarded quickly, and good for Kemelman for introducing then gracefully dismissing unpleasant bits of, well, misinformation about the Jewish faith. CAST=4: Rabbi Small is an original. We're introduced to him even in an original way. He is a cool, calm, collected, fact-based man. And even though at first he's the prime suspect I very much liked that he's rather unconcerned about it: he knows he didn't do it and it's as if he thinks he need not even bother with trying to prove he didn't do it. And he stands up to his seniors: early in the novel two temple members expect Rabbi Small to solve a dispute as one character says about the temple, "It should be a place where Jews should settle their differences." Rabbi Small "reddened." He is young and he knows he just might not be around at this particular temple (which he likes, as well as the community) if he doesn't go along with the elders. But he says to them, "I'm afraid I can't agree, Mr. Wasserman...But settling differences is not traditionally the function of the temple, but of the rabbi." What? This young rabbi contradicting the president of the temple openingly, simply? One just likes Rabbi Small instantly. I can't recall a time when I instantly realized I'd be reading the rest of this series and that I liked and admired Rabbi Small as much or more than any other 'detective' I'd encountered in a first novel. ATMOSPHERE = 4 stars. Small town gossip, lies, and misunderstandings abound. Kemelman takes us through these untruths (and, like I said before, discards them quickly) and solves the murder with little more than a few clues and Rabbi Small's references to Jewish teachings. I learned so much here about Jewish traditions. SUMMARY: 3.8. And when I read this, I immediately checked out from the library the next 2 in the series. A surprisingly good debut, and I learned much! Kemelman has a very light comic touch here and it is refreshing. Rabbi Small is a wonderful creation. This Edgar winner absolutely deserved it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick J. McAdam

    After seeing on Bookbub that Amazon was offering this on Kindle for $1.99, I decided to purchase. What a great find! The storytelling was excellent and I learned some things about the Jewish religion. I'll definitely download the next in the series! After seeing on Bookbub that Amazon was offering this on Kindle for $1.99, I decided to purchase. What a great find! The storytelling was excellent and I learned some things about the Jewish religion. I'll definitely download the next in the series!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This is a very enjoyable character-based mystery novel. Rabbi David Small is a charming protagonist, and there’s an interesting cast of secondary characters, including police chief Hugh Lanigan, temple board president Jacob Wasserman, and the rabbi’s wife, Miriam Small. There is little or no violence and not much action. Instead, the mystery is solved primarily through intuition and logic. When a young woman is found murdered on the grounds of Rabbi Small’s temple in the town of Barnard’s Crossi This is a very enjoyable character-based mystery novel. Rabbi David Small is a charming protagonist, and there’s an interesting cast of secondary characters, including police chief Hugh Lanigan, temple board president Jacob Wasserman, and the rabbi’s wife, Miriam Small. There is little or no violence and not much action. Instead, the mystery is solved primarily through intuition and logic. When a young woman is found murdered on the grounds of Rabbi Small’s temple in the town of Barnard’s Crossing, Massachusetts, the clues seem to point to the rabbi himself as the killer. This unwelcome event comes as the rabbi is approaching the end of his first year with the congregation and the temple board is debating whether to extend his contract. No one disputes that the rabbi is scholarly or that he is kind and well-meaning, but some think that his unassuming demeanor and somewhat rumpled appearance make him a less than ideal ambassador for the congregation in the community. Few think that he could really be the killer, but of course, anything is possible. In order to clear his own name and preserve the good reputation of the Jewish community, Rabbi Small does some investigating in tandem with the police. Although he is strictly an amateur detective, his “learning in the (Talmudic) law” helps him to evaluate evidence and draw logical conclusions. And meanwhile, through Small’s conversations with Lanigan, Wasserman, and others, readers are treated to some lessons about Judaism, including the role of a rabbi in the community, the nature of Jewish prayers, and the function of Jewish law. I enjoyed getting to know Rabbi Small and others in the Barnard’s Crossing community, and I look forward to another visit with them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Great narration of audiobook by G. Guidall. In addition to a quirky sort of a murder mystery, it's a casual intro to the American Jewish experience, and a flashback to 1960s suburbia. Great narration of audiobook by G. Guidall. In addition to a quirky sort of a murder mystery, it's a casual intro to the American Jewish experience, and a flashback to 1960s suburbia.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nolan

    First, even those who don't think much of mysteries may well like this book. Indeed, this entire series is a pleasant read. Rabbi David Small finds himself in a nasty situation as this book opens. He's a bit of a scholarly type, and he doesn't necessarily do what other rabbis do in terms of easily mixing with other congregations in the community. As a result, the members of his temple question whether he should be reinstated when his contract is out at the end of the high holy days in September. First, even those who don't think much of mysteries may well like this book. Indeed, this entire series is a pleasant read. Rabbi David Small finds himself in a nasty situation as this book opens. He's a bit of a scholarly type, and he doesn't necessarily do what other rabbis do in terms of easily mixing with other congregations in the community. As a result, the members of his temple question whether he should be reinstated when his contract is out at the end of the high holy days in September. He's quite sure he's about to be ousted, and he prepares to begin the search for a new position. In the meantime, young Elsbeth, Bleech, a nanny in the employ of a nightclub owner and his wife, is murdered hours after she learns she's pregnant. Her body is dumped in the temple yard and her handbag is found the next day in poor Rabbi Small's car. Clearly, this lovable thoughtful rabbi needs whatever kind of miracle he can get to save him. In the end, it’s his love of the Talmud and his own thoughtful detective work that makes the difference. If you’re unfamiliar with the gentle, thoughtful, philosophical Rabbi Small, you’re missing a great literary friend. This is a super short read, and it's very well written. All of the characters are people you will quickly come to appreciate, and the ending isn't necessarily one you'll see coming. For those who want a nice clean mystery devoid of strong language and sexual descriptions, this may well be your kind of book. As for me, I hope to visit Rabbi Small and his synagogue filled with its fascinating characters again in the not too distant future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Sandford

    Thoroughly enjoyed this, enough that I read the whole thing one Saturday afternoon. The writing is charming, and the relationship between the Jewish rabbi and the Catholic chief of police, as well as the relationships of the leadership in the local Jewish temple, makes a platform for some very interesting explorations of faith, culture, and ways of thinking without getting too deep. The characters were almost universally compelling. I thought the answer to the mystery was perhaps a bit obvious ( Thoroughly enjoyed this, enough that I read the whole thing one Saturday afternoon. The writing is charming, and the relationship between the Jewish rabbi and the Catholic chief of police, as well as the relationships of the leadership in the local Jewish temple, makes a platform for some very interesting explorations of faith, culture, and ways of thinking without getting too deep. The characters were almost universally compelling. I thought the answer to the mystery was perhaps a bit obvious (I figured out the solution somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of the way through the novel), and then the solution is quickly figured out and presented right at the end in a bit of an anticlimax. But the characters, relationships, conversations, and prose quality make up for the less-than-baffling whodunit, and I plan to read the sequels.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I just couldn't really get into this one and I feel bad saying that. I know extremely little about Jewish religion, laws, terminology, etc. so I was at a disadvantage. There were some things I was familiar with such as Jewish holidays. I thought it was interesting reading some of the differences between the Judaism and other religions as well as some similarities I didn't realize. The mystery fell a bit flat for me, though. I found it interesting that Rabbi Small becomes a prime suspect in a mur I just couldn't really get into this one and I feel bad saying that. I know extremely little about Jewish religion, laws, terminology, etc. so I was at a disadvantage. There were some things I was familiar with such as Jewish holidays. I thought it was interesting reading some of the differences between the Judaism and other religions as well as some similarities I didn't realize. The mystery fell a bit flat for me, though. I found it interesting that Rabbi Small becomes a prime suspect in a murder case, and we all know that there are religious leaders who've been guilty of crimes, so I wasn't sure. Another thing is that there is sexism in the book, and most of it is due to the setting/time the story takes place.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    Two and a half stars for what is almost a "period novel" when read from today's perspective. My, times have changed. In 1963, in well to do East Coast homes, marriage normally precluded a woman continuing to work, even if she had a university degree. Well-to-do women (without jobs or careers) apparently had maids to look after the kids. Adultery and unwed pregnancy weren't just a big deal, they were huge. Rock and roll was "that crazy music kids like today." Husbands bought the family car, and u Two and a half stars for what is almost a "period novel" when read from today's perspective. My, times have changed. In 1963, in well to do East Coast homes, marriage normally precluded a woman continuing to work, even if she had a university degree. Well-to-do women (without jobs or careers) apparently had maids to look after the kids. Adultery and unwed pregnancy weren't just a big deal, they were huge. Rock and roll was "that crazy music kids like today." Husbands bought the family car, and usually drove it too. (One of the first scenes in the book deals with the fact that a woman is not expected to drive herself around.) Wow. However,that's not why I give 2.5 stars. The author's foreword to the edition I read says that he wrote the first Rabbi Small book to explore the "disaccord" (his word) between a rabbi's worldview and that of his own congregation--including, for example, a synagogue member's request that he bless a young couple's new Cadillac, and their disappointment when he refused to do so on the grounds that, basically, rabbis don't do that kind of thing. Kemelman's editor (probably realising that there would be a limited appeal for that sort of novel in the sixties) suggested that he "add some exciting elements" drawn from his experience writing short detective stories for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Unfortunately, in this first novel, you can see the join. It takes a good two thirds of the novel to even get to the "mystery"; most of the text is taken up with temple politicking and talktalk. The long discussion of who drove who's car where and why that occupies the first chapter has absolutely nothing to do with anything else in the novel. Even when death has been done, very little sleuthing is shown to the reader; the mystery is, what happened. We are told things like "He drove to Salem and spent about an hour there, and then drove home," or "He crossed the street and spoke to (one of the principle witnesses) for five minutes." What did he say, what did he do? No detail at all for the reader to draw conclusions from. While some of the red herrings are well-presented, there's a slightly sixties-soap-opera feel to them. The solution is pulled out of nearly-thin-air. As mysteries go, I found it unsatisfying. Curiously, there's quite a lot of stereotyping of other groups, or even of the group the speaker belongs to: "You Jews are like this or that," but also "We Christians" or "We Jews" are thus and so. Maybe things really were that thoroughly black and white in those days. Maybe people really did think of their own racial, ethnic and social groups in such superficial terms in 1963. I don't know; this book was published when I was a year old.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg Rothenberger

    I've always enjoyed this series, and have decided to read them all again. Rabbi Small has always been one of my favorite characters. It may have something to do with this being the first "adult" mystery I ever read. You know, something other than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. In terms of sub-genre, I'm tempted to classify this one as just about a "cozy." With the obvious differences that the main characters are male, it's set in New England, and religion figures heavily in the book. The plot is p I've always enjoyed this series, and have decided to read them all again. Rabbi Small has always been one of my favorite characters. It may have something to do with this being the first "adult" mystery I ever read. You know, something other than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. In terms of sub-genre, I'm tempted to classify this one as just about a "cozy." With the obvious differences that the main characters are male, it's set in New England, and religion figures heavily in the book. The plot is pretty simple; what makes the book is the characterizations and the little subplots of temple life. The religious discussions between Rabbi Small (Jewish, obviously) and Chief Lanigan (Roman Catholic) are also a big part of the book's charm. In fact, I enjoyed Kemelman's book Conversations with Rabbi Small for that very reason. Published in 1964, it's somewhat dated today, but that's just another reason I like it. This is one of the two mystery series I like to read again and again, along with Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter series. I would very much recommend it to anyone who likes well-crafted mysteries with a touch of religion, and enjoys early 60's nostalgia.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    A brisk and interesting read, the mystery was less compelling then the setting. The one question I had was when exactly this was supposed to be set, I guess the 1950s? It was one of those books where everyone was vaguely likable, had their quirks, and were basically genial even though murder was involved. Kind of a like a Jewish The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency A brisk and interesting read, the mystery was less compelling then the setting. The one question I had was when exactly this was supposed to be set, I guess the 1950s? It was one of those books where everyone was vaguely likable, had their quirks, and were basically genial even though murder was involved. Kind of a like a Jewish The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Don’t give up on a slow start with this book. I almost did, but I am so glad that I kept reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction to Jewish culture and the workings of a temple. A rabbi is an unusual crime solver, but Rabbi David Small reminds me somewhat of Hercule Poirot in the Agatha Christie novels. Small is a thinker. And he works modern circumstances out with the help of his knowledge of the Talmud. I am looking forward to reading the next in this series.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sue Dix

    This is the first in the Rabbi Small mystery series and it was charming. In the course of the book, we learn a little Talmudic law and become acquainted with what a rabbi is and does and learn differences between Judaism and other religions. A really good mystery and an extremely tolerant police chief round out this delightful book. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dorine

    That was a fun, clean, and interesting whodunit that kept you guessing right to the end. Would like to read more in the series. It was especially interesting to learn about Jewish lifestyle and beliefs.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pat K

    DNF at 50% I'd found this series on audio and planned on listening to them all thinking they would be cosy mysteries, something like Father Brown mysteries. The writing is very good, the mystery was interesting but the didacticism became overwhelming and I just couldn't go on. DNF at 50% I'd found this series on audio and planned on listening to them all thinking they would be cosy mysteries, something like Father Brown mysteries. The writing is very good, the mystery was interesting but the didacticism became overwhelming and I just couldn't go on.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kessler

    This series has been on my radar for a while, and although I'm not sure I'm going to read all dozen volumes, the first one is pretty neat. It's one of those stories in which a police investigation is aided by a civilian of nontraditional wisdom and insight, but instead of an elderly spinster like Miss Marple, the surprising hero here is the only rabbi in the small New England town where a young woman has just been found murdered. He's briefly considered and dismissed as a suspect, and thereafter This series has been on my radar for a while, and although I'm not sure I'm going to read all dozen volumes, the first one is pretty neat. It's one of those stories in which a police investigation is aided by a civilian of nontraditional wisdom and insight, but instead of an elderly spinster like Miss Marple, the surprising hero here is the only rabbi in the small New England town where a young woman has just been found murdered. He's briefly considered and dismissed as a suspect, and thereafter strikes up a friendship with the Irish Catholic detective in charge of the case. The portrayal of Judaism in this book is a great example of accurate #ownvoices representation, all the more remarkable for having been written back in 1964. Lots of smaller details make me smile in recognition of temple life, and author Harry Kemelman does a good job of explaining Jewish things to his Christian characters and readers, like how our prayers are mostly grateful rather than petitionary ("Thank you for X" and not "Please provide Y"). Even the ugly antisemitism that the protagonist encounters feels textured from real experience, in contrast to the sort of simple Jew-hating bigotry I sometimes see gentile writers attempt. With so much focus on incorporating these elements of authentic Jewishness into the narrative, the actual mystery plot often seems like an afterthought -- and a foreword notes that it did in fact come late in the creative process, at an editor's suggestion. I still enjoy the finished result a whole lot, but I think I might have liked the original vision for a novel about navigating simple congregation and community tensions even better. --Subscribe at https://patreon.com/lesserjoke to support these reviews and weigh in on what I read next!-- Find me on Patreon | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is the first Rabbi Small book I've read, and I enjoyed learning, honestly, what a rabbi is and does in the Jewish community. That issue is worked well into the plot of the story. Otherwise, it's a fairly typical murder mystery, with suspects presented to the reader in various ways. The resolution came suddenly and without a lot of time to process, but the clues were definitely there for the reader to detect. I would certainly read another Rabbi Small mystery. This is the first Rabbi Small book I've read, and I enjoyed learning, honestly, what a rabbi is and does in the Jewish community. That issue is worked well into the plot of the story. Otherwise, it's a fairly typical murder mystery, with suspects presented to the reader in various ways. The resolution came suddenly and without a lot of time to process, but the clues were definitely there for the reader to detect. I would certainly read another Rabbi Small mystery.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brown

    The thinking man detective has been the staple of Mr. Kemelman's style in the short story. Many asked for a full length version of his work but he said many times that his Professor Wert character just did not fit in any of his attempts. While working on a non-fiction piece, things came together where he could create a new character in the style of Wert and by adding a religious touch as so many other authors had done, he could make the old idea work for him. So we now have Rabbi Small in a New The thinking man detective has been the staple of Mr. Kemelman's style in the short story. Many asked for a full length version of his work but he said many times that his Professor Wert character just did not fit in any of his attempts. While working on a non-fiction piece, things came together where he could create a new character in the style of Wert and by adding a religious touch as so many other authors had done, he could make the old idea work for him. So we now have Rabbi Small in a New England suburb of Boston tasked with gaining the trust of his congregation and solving a possible murder where he is the prime suspect.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Liz Mc2

    My library seems to have licensed some giant collection of backlist audiobooks, and the “Rabbi” books are in there. Definitely shows its age in some ways (the smoking! the gender roles! the pay phones!). Why do I find that more awkward in books around my own age than in 19th century fiction? Anyhow, I really enjoyed the rabbi. This kind of gentle mystery is really hitting the spot for me as the pandemic wears on. Good for 3am wakeful periods. I already downloaded the next one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Rabbi David Small leads a temple in Massachusetts outside of the big city. He and his wife are just finishing their first year with the congregation and the board is considering whether or not to retain the rabbi. He did manage to make a detractor in one of his judicial decisions, so when a young woman's body is found on the temple grounds with some evidence that could implicate the rabbi, things get sticky. The local police force, including Chief Lanigan, work on finding the young woman's murde Rabbi David Small leads a temple in Massachusetts outside of the big city. He and his wife are just finishing their first year with the congregation and the board is considering whether or not to retain the rabbi. He did manage to make a detractor in one of his judicial decisions, so when a young woman's body is found on the temple grounds with some evidence that could implicate the rabbi, things get sticky. The local police force, including Chief Lanigan, work on finding the young woman's murderer. Small does what he can to help, and works with the Chief on evaluating evidence more than one time. This was contemporary when published fifty years ago; the stereotyping sometimes rings uncomfortably. But within these pages lie two things which prove a mystery's worth. The evidence to solve is all there. (I didn't.) And for a mystery-lover who cut his teeth on Sherlock Holmes long ago, getting resolution in thoughtful ways, as do Gamache, and Poirot and Sidney Chambers in Grantchester puts this opening to the series in good stead.. Book two is surely on the horizon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This book came out in 1965 and I did read it before at some earlier time. I just re-read it for a Jewish Bookclub discussion. In some ways it is very dated (particularly attitudes toward women and the roles women played in it), but in other aspects it was still very pertinent. A young rabbi is head of a congregation on the East Coast. This was a time when the Jewish population wanted to blend into the community and be accepted and not stand apart. They want their rabbi to help with that accepta This book came out in 1965 and I did read it before at some earlier time. I just re-read it for a Jewish Bookclub discussion. In some ways it is very dated (particularly attitudes toward women and the roles women played in it), but in other aspects it was still very pertinent. A young rabbi is head of a congregation on the East Coast. This was a time when the Jewish population wanted to blend into the community and be accepted and not stand apart. They want their rabbi to help with that acceptance and do things outside of the temple. But Rabbi Small is a biblical scholar and doesn't feel that is his role in the congregation. Because of this, he has his supporters and his detractors within the temple. When a young woman is murdered and her body is found on the temple grounds, Rabbi Small becomes somewhat of a suspect, as he admits he was the only one around at the time. But as the police chief investigates, and comes up with some viable suspects, he and the rabbi discuss and eliminate others until the real murderer is revealed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Della

    very enjoyable light reading-- perfect for a few long train rides. its a simple murder mystery without any gore, and if you are the careful reader, you will figure out the suspect quite quickly. if that poses no challenge, you do also get to learn a bit about the role of rabbis in general, and how they fit within their congregation. funny thing is, the rabbi character is quite a scholar, which is sort of why he is mixed up in this murder business to begin with. you could almost substitute the ra very enjoyable light reading-- perfect for a few long train rides. its a simple murder mystery without any gore, and if you are the careful reader, you will figure out the suspect quite quickly. if that poses no challenge, you do also get to learn a bit about the role of rabbis in general, and how they fit within their congregation. funny thing is, the rabbi character is quite a scholar, which is sort of why he is mixed up in this murder business to begin with. you could almost substitute the rabbi and his congregation with any group that has has a scholar as their go-to-guy. imagine a research scientist in the place of the rabbi. the story would work just as well, except that the rabbi is incredibly patient rather than anxious and frustrated at the slow progress of the investigation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    When I was a small child, my mother read this series about a Rabbi who solves mysteries using his Talmudic exegetical skills. I guess that is why I picked this book up at the library when it caught my eye. It's hardly deep reading, but it was really fun and engaging. Also, I have no idea where this particular book is in the series, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Fun read. When I was a small child, my mother read this series about a Rabbi who solves mysteries using his Talmudic exegetical skills. I guess that is why I picked this book up at the library when it caught my eye. It's hardly deep reading, but it was really fun and engaging. Also, I have no idea where this particular book is in the series, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Fun read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    It's always nice to find a charming something to read between more demanding reads! This old series is perfect; there's something quite entertaining reading about the "old days," before the Internet and cell phones and even the descriptions of so many characters (and not just the villains) enjoying their cigarettes, hearkening back to to time when what we didn't know meant we would live forever. It's always nice to find a charming something to read between more demanding reads! This old series is perfect; there's something quite entertaining reading about the "old days," before the Internet and cell phones and even the descriptions of so many characters (and not just the villains) enjoying their cigarettes, hearkening back to to time when what we didn't know meant we would live forever.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    #1 in the Rabbi Small series. "1965 Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Finalist 1965 Gold Dagger Award " Auspicious start to a wonderful series. Rabbi Small mystery - A young woman's body is left on the grounds of the temple and the renewal of the rabbi's contract is debated. #1 in the Rabbi Small series. "1965 Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Finalist 1965 Gold Dagger Award " Auspicious start to a wonderful series. Rabbi Small mystery - A young woman's body is left on the grounds of the temple and the renewal of the rabbi's contract is debated.

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