Monday, August 23, 2010

One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross (William Morrow & Co, 1986)

How aggravating. I have run out of Harry Kemelman novels to read. And the last one on my pile was the first one that I didn't enjoy very much.

In One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross, Rabbi Small and his wife take another trip to Israel with their kids safely at summer camp and our hero manages to get involved in another murder. The temple politics and academia avenues are mostly sidelined in favor of very rote, by-the-numbers mystery writing. In the previous novels, Kemelman crafted a huge world of characters around the story and let the actual solution to the crime be plucked from around them. This, by contrast, is like an episode of Murder, She Wrote, where every scene is intricately related to the mystery. It becomes a game, not of spotting these clues, but questioning at what point they will reappear.

Put another way, I figured this one out. I figured it out very early. I never even attempt to figure them out, but this was so remarkably obvious that I couldn't avoid it. The characters, reduced from "character" to "humanoid-shaped item that advances plot," lost all my interest and I found myself, rather than reading the last forty pages, confirming my suspicions.

While I really can't recommend this novel to new readers, I am still looking forward to swinging through some bookstores in the city and finding the other four books in the series that I haven't read.

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