Thou Shalt not Bear False Witness

A review of “Murder at the Minyan” by Shulamit E. Kustanowitz

I am going to begin by quoting the synopsis of the story from the back of the book. This review does contain spoilers.

“He would do anything to get a minyan. Anything. A shot in the synagogue parking lot brings Rabbi London running. He sees a gun and a pool of blood. At least one person is probably dead the rabbi knows he should have seen trouble brewing weeks before when discussions about
death turned nasty. But he was busy with life cycle events and November and December challenges. Now, despite the rabbi’s teachings, the murderer has put his plan into motion. Soon there will be enough people mourning his victims to ensure the minimum of ten men t the daily service, and he will be able to say his Kaddish”

Now, have I gone crazy, or am I the only one who expected this to be a murder mystery? Well guess what, it’s not. If you want a crash course in Jewish lie cycle events, this is the book for you. If you want the book as advertised, look up Faye Kellerman or Harry Kemelman. There really truly isn’t even a murder. Let me give you a rundown. First we meet Rabbi London.he is a great character. I love him. A whole series of books could
be written using life cycle events as plot with him the protagonist. He is a great character, if a bit old fashioned. He has trouble getting ten men for a minyan 3 times a day, but no one is perfect. In 125 pages we meet the rabbi, his wife, daughter and son. Some members of the shul die, we see a very traditional Jewish burial, then a more Christian but still Jewish burial. We see a small amount of a small jewish wedding and the beginning prep for a young man’s Bar Mitzvah.

Now this is the only real hint of plot. You see the kid’s mom was adopted into a jewish home, but not knowing if her birth
parents were jewish it is necessary for her to undergo a formal conversion. Without this step, if her children were ever to apply for Israeli citizenship, they could be denied. Also, the young man will also have to convert and his much older sister as well. The fly in the ointment is that the sister has lived in Israel for the last 5+years.

Rabbi London goes to Israel and brings her home. And the rash of death continues. One congregants’ ignorance leads to an obsession
to say Kaddish for his/her dearly departed. This person makes up a list of fellow synagogue members who have sons who are of age. His /her plan also includes  his/her spouse.

At page 184 we finally have something that looks like murder. The congregant attacks another member, strangling them. It looks like the victim is dead, and the congregant stands. Blood spreads over his/her shirt and he/she turns to find his/her spouse standing behind them with a pistol. The congregant dies and the spouse is arrested.

The victim lives. The author lies. There wasn’t any murder anywhere. The whole Kaddish plot seems like an afterthought. I will end by saying Ms. Kustanowitz, please write more about rabbi London and his family, but please please, stay away from murder. Leave it to those who have the stomach for it. Obviously you don’t.

One star

To order this book, click on the image below:


About Navah Vesper Anat Yehudit

I am an avid fan of the Ballet, am expanding my tastes in Opera and all all Classical Arts. I enjoy Japanese art, needle craft, crochet, knitting, and though my past-times are old-fashioned, and some of my ideas are, that isn't necessarily a bad thing in this age of progress for the sake of progress.
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