Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Archive for November, 2012


There’s a new internet game making the rounds – no, not souped up versions of Jewel Blitz or Words with Friends. It’s called “Blog Tag,” and I was tagged by Donna Fletcher Crow to be “it” this week, and to write about my Next Big Thing.

Donna is the author of thirty-eight books, including the Monastery Murders, among other series. Last February, she and I wrote on each other’s blogs about “Clerical Mysteries: What and Why.” (Scroll way down on this page to read her blog, and go to to see mine.)

Donna’s Next Big Thing is the latest soon-to-be-released book in her Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series: A Tincture of Murder. To quote Donna, “As with all the Lord Danvers books, A Tincture of Murder recounts a true crime from Victorian England with a fictional murder woven around it.” Read more at:


And my Next Big Thing? No, not the release this week of Unleavened Dead. Not even my Book Launch Party on Sunday, December 9, at 4:30 PM (yes, after the Eagles game, for those of you die-hard fans who haven’t given up on them yet), at the Barnes and Noble on Rte. 70 in Marlton, NJ. No, my Next Big Thing is the 3rd Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Yom Killer. (Kudos to my younger son, Ari, for coming up with the name a couple of years ago when we were brainstorming title ideas for future adventures of Rabbi Aviva Cohen.)

I actually began work on Yom Killer shortly after I finished the first draft of Unleavened Dead. I wrote three pages. Then I put it aside to revise and shop Unleavened Dead. Then I looked at those three pages, decided they didn’t work, and rewrote them. Then I auctioned and sold off naming rights for characters as a fund-raiser for Congregation Beth Tikvah ( I knew at that point that I was committed to getting beyond three pages – there’s no way I could introduce all the new characters in that small a space. And it would make for a very confusing and boring – and short – novel. So I reread what I had rewritten, didn’t like it, and rewrote it. And there it sits. Until now. Or soon. As soon as I finish all the guest blogs I’ve promised to write. As soon as I finish all the PR and marketing I need to do to give Unleavened Dead a good launch. As soon as real life stops interrupting what I really want to do.

I’m not a planner: I don’t outline my books. I’m a pantser: I write by the seat of my pants. Of course, I have some idea what will be happening in  my books, but mostly I let my characters tell me what they want to do and what is happening. In Yom Killer, I know that Aviva’s elderly mother has suffered a stroke – maybe – and has been hospitalized, despite her express, written orders that she does not want to be. And ignoring advanced directives is not the only problem Aviva uncovers at the assisted living facility her mother has called home for several years. The new owners have converted it from a non-profit to a for-profit facility, and will no longer accept residents who rely on Medicare or Medicaid (I’ll figure out which is which eventually) payments to pay their fees. And the residents who have lived there under the old rules are supposed to be “grandfathered” in, but seem to be dying in alarming numbers, even for the elderly. Of course, Aviva can’t ignore what she suspects is going on, especially when she finds out her mother (with her granddaughter’s help) had hacked into the owners’ financial records and uncovered some suspicious bookkeeping practices. And especially when a medical resident at the hospital wonders out loud why Aviva’s mother, who fell forward and hit her head on the sink, has a bruise not just on her forehead (as expected), but on the back of her head. A bruise that looks as though it could have been caused by the proverbial blunt instrument. Now it’s personal.

All I have left to do is figure out how to get from Point A (the beginning) to Point Z (the end). And not have the obvious bad guy be the bad guy. But at least I know the bad guy’s name: he paid the highest amount at the character name auction.


Next week, check out Denise Weeks’ NEXT BIG THING at:





And don’t forget the Launch Party, Sunday, December 9, 4:30 PM, Barnes and Noble, Rte. 70, Marlton.

RSVPs appreciated – we don’t want to run out of cake!


 I asked five authors whose works I enjoy (and whom I have met) to read the unedited manuscript of Unleavened Dead, and, if they liked the book, to write a blurb to appear on the back cover. All five accepted, and all five wrote nice mini-reviews. In order to fit all five onto the back cover (along with the book description, my bio, and my picture), we had to cut down the already short comments to a few snippets.

All five have given me permission to post the full blurbs on my website/blog. Please help me thank them by clicking on the links for their websites. And, even better, read their books. You won’t be disappointed.


And here they are (in alphabetical order):


In Ilene Schneider’s Unleavened Dead, Rabbi Aviva Cohen is funny, smart, and believable. Somehow between worrying about her job, her weight, and her exes, she keeps getting involved in murders, but her slide into crime-solving is seamless. A smoothly written and entirely enjoyable read!

– Sheila Connolly, Agatha Award nominated author of the Orchard Mysteries and the Museum Mysteries;


Rabbi Aviva is back – and never in better form – if never more stressed. The pressure of Passover preparations with a wedding the night before, Aviva’s complicated relationship with her ex-husband and turmoil in her niece’s life should be enough, but then people close to Aviva start dying in suspicious circumstances. And then the mob shows up. As always, Schneider gives us a wonderful picture of life in a Jewish community – Chaim Potok with a wacky sense of humor.

– Donna Fletcher Crow, A Darkly Hidden Truth, The Monastery Murders 2;


Ilene Schneider’s Unleavened Dead is like dishing with your girlfriend the rabbi, who leads a really interesting life. Three mysterious deaths, an evil therapist, a crowd of menacing murder suspects, a tangle of shul politics, a still-attractive ex-husband – What’s not to like?

– Kate Gallison, author of The Edge of Ruin (as Irene Fleming), winner of the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance fiction award;


Oy vey, this book made me smile. With two good mysteries, a dysfunctional family, and an inside look at life as a female rabbi-cum-amateur sleuth, Unleavened Dead is a book you don’t want to miss.

–  Barb Goffman, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity award-nominated author of short stories including “The Lord Is My Shamus;”


Once again, the inimitable Aviva Cohen uses her rabbinic seichel and intuition to solve crime- this time the apparent “accidental” deaths of two of her congregants. You don’t have to be Jewish to root for this twice divorced, 50 something, slightly overweight, feisty heroine. This is a delightful cozy mystery for everyone!

–  Deborah Shlian, co-author of the award winning Sammy Greene series;








The wait is almost over. You can now pre-order UNLEAVENED DEAD, the 2nd Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, from the Oak Tree Press site. Scroll down – the books are listed in alphabetical order. Buy early and often!