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

Archive for July, 2013


I am pleased today to host new author Kristen Elise, who has given us a description of her book THE VESUVIUS ISOTOPE, along with an excerpt and comments on the excerpt.

Kristen EliseKristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit her websites at and The Vesuvius Isotope is available in both print ( and and e-book formats ( for Kindle, for Nook, for Kobo reader.)

Back cover copy for The Vesuvius Isotope:
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00011]
When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

See Naples and Die
Excerpts from The Vesuvius Isotope

There was a horn and a screeching of brakes. I felt the rush of wind upon my face as a metal blur obscured my vision. I leapt back and turned my head just as a speeding car rocketed away, its driver apparently oblivious. I wondered if I had accidentally stepped into the street, but a quick look down confirmed that I was still standing on the sidewalk. And then I was almost run over again.

This time, an entire family on a moped sped by within inches of my face. A man jerked the handlebars left and right as if boxing. Behind him sat a girl of three or four, not bothering to clutch his waist. A woman straddling the rear of the bike squeezed the girl into place while curling a bag of groceries in one arm and an infant in the other like two footballs.

They scooted deftly over the sidewalk to avoid a slow-moving car, not seeming to mind that they had almost collided with a pedestrian instead. The little girl smiled at me as they passed, perfectly comfortable in her element and apparently unaware that this mode of travel could be dangerous or considered the least bit odd by anyone.

After they were gone, I retreated into the shadows of the museum, away from the edge of the sidewalk, and watched the traffic zipping past me. I breathed deeply and, after a few moments, found that I could think again.

I stepped back to the sidewalk’s edge and hailed a taxi.

The taxi raced down a main street, weaving in and out of traffic that had no apparent legal regulation. There were very few road signs, and the traffic signals seemed only to flash yellow. I could not identify a correct side of the road or a speed limit. The sidewalk was open terrain for motor vehicles as well as for pedestrians. I quickly realized that renting a car was not going to be an option.

The streets doubled as supermarket aisles. Like islands in the center of a fast-moving river stood rows of vendors’ tents peddling food, jewelry, handbags, and countless other goods, while the heavy automobile traffic swirled around them. Hurried pedestrians zigzagged back and forth across the traffic like ants, jumping from sidewalk to vendor’s tent and then biblically parting on cue to accommodate a racing Smart car. Or a bus. Or a moped containing four passengers.

Author commentary:

The Vesuvius Isotope visits several colorful locations in the Naples region, and the character of the city plays multiple roles in the novel. The chaos of Naples is legendary and perhaps best summed up in the famous anonymous quote, “See Naples and die.” The expression has a double meaning. The first is that the visitor to Naples can happily cross the last item from his or her bucket list, revel in the city’s beauty, and die happily. The second is a bit more literal.

My first introduction to Naples took place almost exactly as described in the scenes above, complete with entire families on mopeds and supermarket aisles in the center of the street. A few of my unique adventures there, including a brief and mostly-harmless arrest by the transit police, have also made their way in one form or another into the novel.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its chaos, Naples is one of my favorite cities in Italy.


UNLEAVENED DEAD just won FIRST PLACE in the Public Safety Writers Association Writing Competition for “Fiction Book Published.”

I managed to restrain myself and not tearfully gush, “You like me, you really like me.” But I did comment to the chair of the Awards Committee, “The bribe worked.”

Here I am with the award certificate. With me are Billie Johnson, publisher, and Sunny Frazier, acquisitions editor, of Oak Tree Press.

Billie Johnson and Sunny Frazier of Oak Tree Press

Billie Johnson and Sunny Frazier of Oak Tree Press