I love Rabbi Small. I’m glad he’s not my rabbi, since he is prickly and hard to know. His idea of what a rabbi is supposed to be like is at odds with the idea of most of the members of his congregation. This leads to constant areas of conflict with them. Fortunately for him, he had the ability to bring his training to focus on the various murders that happen all around him.
This is the first of 12 novels about R. David Small and takes place in his first year at his congregation. It’s a mixed congregation, composed of members from every tradition from orthodox to reform. By default they have chosen to use conservative ritual as sort of attempt to please everyone. The result, of course, is that no one is happy.
Against this background the rabbi works with the town’s chief of police to solve the murder of a young nanny whose body has been dropped on the synagogue property. For a short time the rabbi himself is a suspect, but he is soon cleared and free to put his mind to finding the real murderer.
These books provide a look into Jewish life in 1964, a time when everyone (even the rebbitzin) smoked and women were never on the bima. In spite of these anachronisms, the book teach us the more things change the more they stay the same.