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


“Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal,” Spring 2013, Volume 10 Number 2. Snippet: “This is a fast-paced, witty, and intriguing read.” Thank you, David J. Zucker.


Funny, Funny, Funny

ByFran Stewarton February 23, 2017

What a delightful book. This is the first Rabbi Aviva Cohen book I’ve read, but the character is such fun, I’ll be sure to pick up the others. I started it thinking it might be somewhere in the realm of the Rabbi David Small books, but Schneider is a great deal wackier (in a good way) than Kemelman was (and Schneider is still alive, so that means there could be LOTS more of these fun mysteries.

5 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!

Bybeckystlouison December 27, 2016

I love good murder mysteries, but the thing I really liked about this was all the detail about the characters. It was really easy for me to picture the people and places and events. And it made my time on my elliptical trainer go really quickly!!

I would recommend this for anyone who likes mysteries that are less about the gory details, and more about the characters. And anyone that is interested or curious about Judaism and Jewish traditions and culture. This definitely gives you a glimpse.

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth reading., January 4, 2014
By RTN “Deani” (Arkansas)

I truly enjoy this author’s novels. Not only a terrific story, but an excellent introduction to Jewish life in the United States.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Delight!, October 11, 2013
By Lorna Collins

I must confess I’m not Jewish, but it made no difference in how much I enjoyed this delightfully funny cozy mystery. The heroine, Rabbi Aviva Cohen, is reminiscent of Jessica Fletcher or Miss Marple, only more outspoken and nosier. The book is a pleasure from beginning to end. Highly recommended!

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Jews!, September 7, 2013
By Jill Yesko

To paraphrase a classic bread commercial: you don’t have to be Jewish to love “Unleavened Dead”—- but it helps.

Even if you’re not Jewish (don’t worry, you’ll catch on to the lingo fast), you will love this cozy mystery. Once again, good-natured but meddlesome rabbi Aviva Cohen is up to her eyeballs in mishegoss (craziness). Her niece’s wife-to-be may be a killer, her ex-husband could be coming on to her, the FBI and a handsome mobster are both competing for her attention…and in mitten drinnen…it’s almost Passover.

Kudos to Ilene Schneider for some of the best plotting I’ve come across all year. I was kept guessing who dunnit until the last chapter. I also laughed out loud several times (while guffawing to myself amost every chapter) at Schneider’s wry humor. Her characters are believable, warm and will be familiar archetypes to readers of any religion, race or creed.

“Unleavened Dead” is a worthy 21st century successor to Harry Kemelman’s “Rabbi” series.

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, June 24, 2013
By D. Zendel (New Mexico)

A husband and wife, members of Rabbi Aviva Cohen’s congregation, are found dead, victims of an apparent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The Rabbi has information that leads her to think otherwise. Then, Aviva’s niece’s partner becomes the prime suspect in a deliberate hit-and-run death. The Rabbi wants to believe she is innocent, even if her SUV does have a body-sized dent on the hood. As she looks into these two disparate cases, the Rabbi uncovers a connection that ultimately leaves her at risk.

The book involves subplots of same-sex marriage, sexual abuse of young teenage girls, money laundering, stolen identities, the mob, an FBI investigation and a possible rekindled romance between Aviva and her ex-husband, the acting head of the Department of Public Safety.
Rabbi Aviva is very relatable and human. Her internal dialogues are entertaining. The day-to-day aspects of being a rabbi and dealing with temple politics are skillfully woven into the plot. The supporting characters are well-drawn. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Aviva and her ex-husband (will they or won’t they get back together).

This book is the second in the series, but it stands alone on its own quite nicely.

I received a free copy of this book to review and about one-third of the way in knew I liked it so much I bought my own copy, as well as the first in the series (“Chanukah Guilt”), and a non-fiction book (“Talk Dirty Yiddish”) by the author. The Rabbi Aviva books are reminiscent of a modern version of the Rabbi David Small/Harry Kemmelman books. Fans of Faye Kellerman’s Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker series might enjoy

5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbi Aviva is Back!, December 15, 2012
By Stanley D. Crow

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.

4.0 out of 5 stars What a fun, sassy Rabbi, March 24, 2013
By Jim Jackson (UP, Michigan USA)

I’m talking about the fictional Rabbi Aviva Cohen, although I suspect the author is equally fun and sassy.

Unleavened Dead contains a bucketful of fully formed characters, each unique and each flawed in just the right way. The character conflicts yield lots of tension and humor without becoming slapstick. Toss in the pressures of preparing for Passover, her annual job performance review and the return of her ex- and Aviva should have enough on her plate.

But as the bodies start to drop, she has to protect those she loves and that means finding out the real story behind the deaths. The mystery has enough twists and turns to keep any fan happy, and the background societal issues Schneider includes (employment loss, interfaith and same-sex couple marriages) are expertly interwoven into the fabric of the story.

I had not read the first book in the series (Chanukah Guilt), and that was not a problem. This story stands on its own (but if you are someone who prefers to start at the beginning of a series, go for it).

5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbi Aviva does it again!, March 22, 2013
By Sharon K. Parkman (Penfield, NY USA)

I thoroughly enjoyed Unleavened Dead, as I had enjoyed Chanukah Guilt. I loved the way the story centered on Rabbi Aviva and her personality as she solved the mystery. Filled with humor, this book still stayed true to its format, delivering a who-done-it that twisted and turned and tricked you throughout. All without the blood and gore that so many mysteries seem to require. I’m a big fan of mysteries, and Unleavened Dead surely delivered. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, February 26, 2013
By Carol

I really enjoyed this book! Interesting, funny, and also learned some things about police work, law, religious practices, and enjoyed the references to birding and cooking. Can’t wait for her next book!

5.0 out of 5 stars Humor along with suspense, January 21, 2013
By Mary Hill

Great twists and turns, kept me hooked! Since I know the author, I could read her writing this book, with the humorous text!

5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read!, January 5, 2013

Light and easy. Funny and suspenseful. Rabbi Aviva Cohen just can’t stop snooping! You have t o love her and her quirky ways. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead the next time that she suspects the facts are not as simple as they seem!

4.0 out of 5 stars I’ve been waiting for Rabbi Cohen’s grand return, January 3, 2013
By Caponomics

I’ve been looking forward to the return of Rabbi Aviva Cohen. It was quite an exciting experience to be introduced to her, her family, and acquaintances through the first book in the series, “Chanukah Guilt.” Now, she has returned to investigate yet another murder. This causes us to ask ourselves, “when will Rabbi Cohen learn to mind her own business???” Then we follow up this question with, “maybe there are exceptions to the rule of M.Y.O.B.”

This story takes place sixteen months after the original Jewish-themed thriller. Instead of a theme of funerals and Chanukah, this story contains a theme of weddings and is set during Passover. Everybody is getting married, and that includes Trudy and Sherry, Rabbi Cohen’s niece and her partner, though it’s not an easy decision. Sherry has recently quit her job following a demotion, plus the person responsible for her demotion ended up being murdered by collision with a car, making Sherry a key suspect. While all this is going on, a couple was killed in their home due to carbon monoxide poisoning, giving plenty to investigate.

In all honesty, I preferred “Chanukah Guilt” over “Unleavened Dead” for the reason that “Guilt” provides center concentration on the central plot while also incorporating the minor subplots. With that being said, “Dead” is an interesting thrill ride that incorporates new elements that allow it to stray from “Guilt.” A specific twist involving the Mafia also makes this quite spicy and it was placed in the plot far better than I believed it would be. I highly suggest buying a copy of “Unleavened Dead” and enjoying the cozy thriller all cuddled up with your cat (or dog for that matter)… which I hope you have given a name.

5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn’t put it down, December 31, 2012
By catherine blalock (escanaba, mi usa)

I loved the humor woven so seamlessly into this mystery. I could not wait to see what happened next. Now I have to go get book 1 in the series.

Unleavened Dead by Ilene Schneider
Review by Sandra Murphy

Rabbi Aviva Cohen is at it again—she’s helping the police whether they want her to or not. It all started when Florence’s daughter finally got engaged. After all, Audrey’s in her forties! But Aviva won’t do interfaith weddings so Florence is referred to Rabbi Ben. He doesn’t do interfaith marriages either but surely can recommend another rabbi who will. Should be easy enough, right?

Not so much. Ben didn’t ask if both the bride and groom to be were Jewish and they didn’t volunteer any information. Now Ben’s in line for a new job and the congregation is adamant about no interfaith marriages, past, present or future. Ben’s not the best rabbi to be found so keeping this job, and now this secret, is vital, especially to Sandy, Ben’s wife.

When Florence and her husband turn up dead, right after Ben and Sandy come to town, it makes Aviva wonder who’s to blame? Is it murder and could Sandy be the culprit? Aviva likes Ben so she would only suspect Sandy, of course. Maybe it was an accident? Carbon monoxide is a silent killer after all. The fire department says it might have been sparrows—there were the makings of a bird’s nest in the dryer vent.

In the midst of getting ready for Passover, cleaning the house and making food for Seder, officiating at a wedding, and wondering what’s up with Steve, ex-husband # 2, Aviva’s got a busy schedule but it’s about to get busier. Trudy and Sherry want to get married but just when they’re ready to make the announcement, Sherry loses her job—well, got demoted/kind of quit/ loses her job. That night, the man who did the firing/demoting/humiliating, is killed in a hit and run accident. It was an accident, right? Not really since witnesses said a dark SUV pulled away from the curb after the man stepped into the street, aimed right for him and sped up.

With Sherry under suspicion, Aviva has to add solving the crimes to her already too long To Do List. She’s sure Sherry is innocent so who could have done the deed? It might be someone from his past or maybe it was the handsome gangster-ish man Aviva met at the coffee shop? He wouldn’t have done it himself of course—he’d delegate.

Aviva is a great character, full of fun, somebody you’d feel comfortable hanging out with. Even though there are many mentions of Jewish tradition, non-Jews won’t feel bombarded with too much information or miss any good clues along the way.

Terrific review from Davida Chazan at:

A nice review by Dawn Roberto at:

Another 4.5 star review, this one on Night Owl Reviews, at:

” Oy vey! I’ve just read one of the funniest murder mysteries and had to share with my blog family in cyber land….Kudos to author (and rabbi) Ilene Schneider for some of the best plotting I’ve come across all year. I was kept guessing who dunnit until the last chapter. I also laughed out loud several times (while guffawing to myself amost every chapter) at Schneider’s wry humor. Her characters are believable, warm and will be familiar archetypes to readers of any religion, race or creed….’Unleavened Dead’ is a worthy 21st century successor to Harry Kemelman’s ‘Rabbi” series.’ — Jill Yesko at


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;


  1. Phyllis Deitch said:

    Unleavened Dead is a real page turner, filled with suspense and interesting characters. I enjoyed the first person tense. This made the story very intimate and personal. I feel as though I know Aviva and all of the characters. I am looking forward to more Aviva Cohen stories. My congratulations to Ilene. Phyllis Deitch, Voorhees, N.J.

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