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

I’m always thrilled to welcome Marilyn (aka F. M.) Meredith to my blog. Today she is discussing “Choosing Names for Characters and ‘Rules’ I’ve Broken.” 

When I first began writing the Rocky Bluff P.D. series I didn’t know as much about writing as I do now. There are some rules or suggestions about character names that are to help the reader no tget confused about who is who. Some of these include not having names that sound alike or rhyme, not using names with the same first letter—that’s the one I’ve broken the most. Another is using names that are right for the time period. No problem with that since the series is contemporary. Picking names that somehow convey the character—like not naming a strong male character Cuthbert.

With this particular book I had two names I had to use because two people who happen to be friends won a contest to be characters in the book and they requested to be a particular type of person. I’m not going to explain further because I don’t want to spoil anything.

The character who appears in all the books is Doug Milligan. I have a cousin and a nephew with the name Doug and I’ve always liked the name.

I’ve had the most fun with a character called Gordon Butler. When he first appeared, I had no idea he would become so important in other books. The name just seems to fit him.

My first African American character is called Felix Zachary. I don’t remember where Felix came from, but Zachary seemed like the perfect surname for this ongoing character. Chandra Taylor is the new police chief, also African American, and the name came out of nowhere and fits her perfectly.

Sometimes I have to work at finding the right name and for that purpose I’ve hung onto graduation programs over the years, a wonderful collection of first and last names. And of course, if I’m looking for a particular ethnic name, the Internet is a great source.

If a name doesn’t fit a character, I have a hard time remembering it. When that happens, I know I need to come up with a new name.

What about you other authors out there? Do you have a system for choosing names for your characters?


#13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Unresolved, by F. M. (aka Marilyn) Meredith

Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including hisestran ged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Copies may be purchased from Book and Table by emailing with a 10% discount and free shipping and from all the usual places.




F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

Visit her at and her blog at




Tomorrow, May 4, she answers the question “Why a Blog Tour?” on


Yes! I just got an email that YOM KILLER has been nominated for a David Award given at Deadly Ink! (I just wish I weren’t up against so many good authors.) Remember, attendees: Vote early and often. 😉


Another 5-star review on Amazon for YOM KILLER: 

Another good read!!!

Yom Killer, the latest in the Aviva Cohen series, delves into family secrets, murder and Medicare fraud, yet does so with typical Aviva wit and humor. Going to the aid of her mother ( now I see where Aviva gets her brashness and wit!!!), the rabbi/sleuth/punster slowly uncovers the truth…and has some harrowing moments along the way. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for some intrigue and entertainment!


Thanks to Marilyn Meredith for inviting me to be a guest blogger on her site “Marilyn’s Musings.” It’s called “Why I Write: Advice for Newbies.” (Sorry about the old picture – my finger must have slipped when I sent her the attachment.)


Just received: the link to a great interview with me conducted by reporter Rachel Kurland for the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

I am not a politician. I am not a scientist. I am not a botanist nor a biologist nor an ornithologist. I am not an expert in history, neither natural nor human. I am not an ecologist nor a professional conservationist.  I drive a hybrid, but I also travel by air. I try not to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or weed killers in my garden, but I also have no intention of pulling out poison ivy by hand. I compost and recycle, but I use my garbage disposal. In other words, I am a regular citizen, with all the contradictions that entails.

When I first moved to South Jersey in 1981, I had never heard of the Pine Barrens. I knew nothing about Elizabeth White and her cultivation of the first commercially viable blueberries. I had never heard tales of the Jersey Devil. I had never visited Atsion Lake or Batsto or driven on a sugar sand road or seen the Caranza Memorial or climbed the fire tower on top Apple Pie Hill. Wharton to me was the name of a graduate school of business in West Philadelphia.

I then read John McPhee’s The  Pine Barrens and so began my fascination with this incredible treasure in our backyards.

I am not naïve enough to think the Pine Barrens we know and enjoy are the same ones that existed when the Leni Lenape were the only human inhabitants of the area. Forests were clear cut to provide timber to fire the forges that produced cannon balls for Washington’s army and decorative fireplace surrounds for the industrialists who owned those forges. Rivers were dammed to create the lakes that provided the water power for mills. Cranberry bogs were dug and houses were built – small cabins for the workers in company towns and huge mansions for their bosses.

But in November, 1978, the US Congress through the National Parks and Recreation Act, created the Pinelands National Reserve.  Only three months later, in February, 1979, the Pinelands Commission was established, followed in June by Governor Brendan Byrne’s signing of the Pinelands Protection Act. By January, 1981, both Governor Byrne and the US Secretary of the Interior approved the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. In 1988, the United Nations formally recognized the uniqueness of the Pine Barrens by designating the area a Biosphere Reserve.

Because of the vision and the political will of Governor Byrne and others like him, we are able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Pine Barrens. If not for those actions almost forty years ago, we would now be sitting in the midst of a sprawling urban enclave, complete with a supersonic airport, shopping malls, a city, and miles of concrete and asphalt.

We cannot undo the mistakes of the past centuries – the destruction of the original old-growth forests, the damming of the rivers, the creation of factories and farms – whether they were done through ignorance or greed or even the need to survive. But you, as the officially appointed stewards of the Pinelands National Reserve, can prevent the repeat of these errors. You have within your power the ability to prevent the degradation of the land and the dismantling of the intentions of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan by voting NO to the installment of a natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands. Please vote your conscience, not expediency.


In case you’re not sure about buying/reading YOM KILLER, here are the preview blurbs printed in the front of the book (the bold faced excerpts are on the back cover):

Loved it!

If you’ve ever wondered where Rabbi Aviva Cohen got her nose for mystery (and trouble!), you’ll find out in “Yom Killer”! Aviva teams up with estranged sister, Jean Meisner, and not-so-estranged ex-husband, Steve Goldfarb, to discover the truth behind the “accidental” injury that sent her 96-year-old mother to the hospital and the sudden increase in deaths in her retirement facility. A witty, engaging mystery and fun read!”

 – Amy M. Bennett, author of the award-winning Black Horse Campground mysteries 


Anyone who has dealt with the health care needs of the elderly will identify with Rabbi Aviva Cohen as she fights for her mother’s welfare. Only her mother’s problems are tougher than those faced by most elderly – like the murder of her friends, her attempted murder, fraud, and robbery.

This is the best in this series. As usual, Rabbi Aviva Cohen is feisty, honest, and funny. The author’s experience ministering to the elderly is apparent. This cozy rings true.

 – J. L. Greger, author of the award-winning Science Traveler medical mystery thrillers


If I’m ever in trouble, forget the marines.  Send in the rabbi!  In Yom Killer you’ll have a great time watching Rabbi Aviva Cohen shedding light on the shadiest hospital in New England. This is Schneider’s best yet.

– Robert Lopresti, award-winning author of Greenfellas


Yom Killer is a heartwarming tale of murder and Medicare fraud.

– Jeff Markowitz, author of the Casey O’Malley mysteries and of Death and White Diamonds


When I finished the last of the twelve Rabbi David Small mysteries (That Day The Rabbi Left Town ), I experienced the sense of loss anyone who enjoys series feels when there is not a next one. Now, twenty years later, I have discovered the Rabbi Aviva Cohen series. The David Small character was rabbi for an orthodox congregation. Aviva Cohen’s congregation is not orthodox, and no one would describe her as orthodox, religiously or otherwise. She [Rabbi Aviva Cohen] is brash, funny, nosy, and blunt. In a word, meshuganah. But she is every bit as captivating and the mysteries every bit as much fun as Kemelman’s work, the first of which won an Edgar. Maybe Rabbi Ilene Schneider will win one as well. From my lips to G*d’s ear, I can hear her saying.

– Mike Orenduff, author of the award-winning Pot Thief Murder Mysteries


A heroine who loves Mel Brooks, Milky Ways and matzoh balls – what’s not to love? Rabbi Aviva Cohen is back in action trading quips with her quirky relatives and besting bad guys when a series of mysterious deaths at a senior facility strikes perilously close to home. Great fun – and as the saying goes “you don’t have to be Jewish…”

– Rosemary Harris, author of the Anthony and Agatha-nominated Pushing Up Daisies and The Bitches of Brooklyn