It was my absolute pleasure to review Rabbi Ilene Schneider's first mystery in what looks to be a new series,
featuring Rabbi Aviva Cohen, reluctant sleuth. I haven't read a good cozy mystery with a rabbi detective since
the 80s when I discovered Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small mysteries, which are now being re-issued.
Schneider brings a different slant to those stories because she introduces a woman rabbi in Chanukah Guilt.
The title is a play on words about the gold-wrapped chocolate coins children play for when they spin the dreidel
Just before Thanksgiving, Rabbi Cohen is asked to officiate at a funeral for a wealthy developer whom she
doesn't know. There are whispers and then accusations about murder, though the police (her first ex-husband is
the Director of Public Safety) say it was a heart attack and close the case. Rabbi Cohen snoops and gets on the
wrong side of the police and her ex. When a suicide occurs in the same family, the police are just as eager to
close that case. Rabbi Cohen proceeds to reveal some interesting clues which the police ignored. However, her
snooping puts her in danger.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. The two murder cases were complex and interesting and kept me on my toes.
What really sold me on this book was a look into Rabbi Cohen's public and private life. I enjoyed details of her
rabbinical duties and the quirky people in her congregation, along with explanations of Jewish religious
practices. Looking into her home life was fun, too. I got to see what Rabbi Cohen did on her off time, how she
kept the Sabbath, and how she practiced kashrut (Jewish dietary rules). Her friends and family were also
intriguing, especially her best friend who is a mortician, and her niece who is in a committed lesbian
relationship and is raising a six year old son with Asperger's Syndrome.
Bravo Ilene Schneider! Chaunukah Guilt is a grand success! I can't wait for more Rabbi Cohen!