Book Review of “Yom Killer” by Ilene Schneider (Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery #3)
Yes, Rabbi Aviva Cohen is back, and she is just as feisty as ever. This time, when her mother lands in the hospital in a chemically induced coma after a fall in her assisted living facility, something doesn’t seem quite right. However, until her mother wakes up, she’s going to have a hard time figuring out what’s really going on. It doesn’t help that her straight-laced sister and her ex-husband the cop need to keep her out of harm’s way in the process. Worse, she has only the few days between the Jewish New Year and the holiest day in Judaism – Yom Kippur – to get it all done before she has to be back on her pulpit.
Where do I begin with reviewing this book? I could start with how I enjoy Schneider’s style. It is friendly, open and she makes me smile. With this third novel in the series, Aviva is really filling out – and by that, I don’t mean her weight, but rather her personality. More importantly, Schneider seems to have honed her voice much more in this book. There were times in her previous novels where I felt that she wasn’t completely comfortable with the narrative. Previously, I found some awkward passages and sections that needed some paring down, if not eliminated. This time, while there were some areas that I think she could have polished or shortened a bit more, I didn’t feel that there were any large superfluous sections at all. Overall, this book had a more consistent and cohesive feel to it, with far fewer blips to interrupt the flow of the story. (Mind you, admittedly sometimes my radar for these things is overly sensitive.)
The story this time is also slightly different from Schneider’s earlier works. This one doesn’t involve investigating one murder in particular, but rather a conspiracy, that may have included murder. More importantly, this book makes somewhat of a political statement regarding privatization of elderly care systems. Schneider seems to say that the levels of greed within such systems can lead to the type of corruption that both literally and figuratively kills its clients. Greed has always been a motive for many different kinds of criminal acts, and this makes Schneider’s scenario even more plausible. As an aside, I’m hoping that this sort of thing doesn’t really happen in privatized elderly care the US these days (and I hope this story isn’t a harbinger for the future).
Despite this gloomy outlook, what makes me enjoy Schneider’s books so much is the humor that she includes. Rabbi Aviva’s self-depreciation and indulgences in food come together with her relationships creating situations you’ll not be able to stop yourself from giggling about. Of course, that doesn’t mean Aviva is any less aggressive and unconventional in getting things done, nor any less adorable than we’ve already witnessed. This of course, makes all of her characters even more endearing. However, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at how Schneider portrayed Aviva’s sister in this book, considering how she talked about her in the previous novels. I’m not sure that this portrayal was true to character, but I can understand why she decided to take the route, which aligned with the whole “asking forgiveness” theme of Yom Kippur – the Jewish day of Atonement.
In short, Schneider succeeded in bringing all of these elements together to make a real pleasure of a read. When times are tough, having something like that can be a true blessing, and I believe that Schneider did me a “Mitzvah” by letting me read this book. I hope I can return the compliment by giving it a rating of four and a half stars out of five (although to be totally honest, it really deserves just slightly less than this, but I don’t have quarter stars, so I’m rounding up here)! Go on, indulge yourself and read something fun for a change!
“Yom Killer” by Ilene Schneider is available (via these affiliate links) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literacy) as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
You can read my reviews of Schneider’s other novels here: