Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

by Harry Kemelman

Book, 1964



Call number




New York : Ballantine Books, 1986, c1964.


Unaware that his congregation is grumbling about his rumpled appearance and absent-minded manner, Rabbi Small spends long hours poring over scholarly books. But he is forced to face his congregants' discontent when the police discover a young woman's body outside the temple--and her handbag in his car. Suddenly Rabbi Small must study motives and uncover the killer, or lose more than his followers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member akblanchard
The rabbi of the title is David Small, a quiet, rumpled Talmudic scholar who is employed by a congregation of Conservative Jews in a small New England town. When a young woman turns up dead in the temple's parking lot, and her handbag is found in Rabbi Small's car, the congregation faces a crisis.
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The rabbi is a suspect, as are a Jewish businessman and the temple custodian. The town's latent anti-Semitism is inflamed as well. Fortunately, the rabbi's Talmudic reasoning skills help him solve the crime before the police do.

In a unlikely subplot considering that he is a suspect in a murder case, Rabbi Small strikes up a friendship with the town's Irish Catholic police chief. The two men spend a lot of time talking about the differences between their religions. These rather didactic conversations explain the tenets and practices of the Conservative branch of Judaism to the non-Jewish reading audience.

This novel, which was first published over fifty years ago, is dated to say the least, especially in its portrayal of its passive female characters. Nonetheless, this period piece is a mildly entertaining, and even somewhat educational, read.
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LibraryThing member ZoharLaor
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman is the first book in The Rabbi Small Mysteries, a series featuring a Jewish clergyman. Mr. Kemelman is a professor of English, as well as a mystery writer.

A new rabbi for Barard’s Crossing has a bit of an issue. Rabbi David Small might be implicated
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in a mysterious murder, all this while his contract with the temple is up for renewal.

A young nanny has been found strangled, with her handbag in the rabbi’s car. Using his experience from arguing with his fellow students, the young rabbi comes to several conclusions helping the police pinpoint the murderer

I recently bought Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman even though the book was originally published in 1964. Imagining it would be interesting to read a murder/mystery with insight into Judaism.

The mystery itself is just an excuse to introduce the characters, as well as, some of the Jewish religious laws and culture. There are hints of affairs, racism, perversions and out-of-marriage pregnancies.

I realize that the book was written almost 60 years ago, the society was different. The book could almost be a time capsule, especially the way husbands and wives talk to one another.

I enjoyed the logic Rabbi Small used to solve this mystery. This, of course, will never fly in real life, but if I wanted that I’d look out my window instead of settling down with a book.

The strength of this novel is the look into the cultural society of Jews in suburbia during the 1960s. Rabbi Small and other characters struggle with ethical, as well as religious issues throughout.

One of my favorite characters was police chief Hugh Lanigan. Here we have an open-minded police officer, who is efficient and capable. I don’t know why I was expecting a bumbling keystone cop but I’m glad I didn’t get it.

The book was enjoyable, even though it was a bit dated. I am not going to judge a 60 year old novel based on today’s standards, it’s simply a period piece for enjoyment.
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LibraryThing member tkcs
3.5. The plot isn't particularly riveting, but I enjoyed the many references to Jewish culture and getting to know Rabbi Small, who uses principles from the Talmud to solve life's problems, including murder.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I had been vaguely aware of this series before but hadn't paid it much attention until I was introduced to the Guardian newspaper's list of 1000 Novels Everyone Should Read and found this first book of the series in the Crime section.

I am so glad that I finally read this! I found the rabbi David
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Small very likeable, although he played a smaller part in the story than I expected. The relationship between the Catholic chief of police and the Jewish rabbi promises to be an ongoing pleasure. I hadn't realized until I started reading this that it was set in Massachusetts, which as a MA native is a plus for me.

The mystery itself was excellently crafted. The pointers to the culprit were there yet the revelation of who it was still surprised me (even though I had noticed one of the biggest clues!).
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LibraryThing member JonRob
The first book to feature Harry Kemelman's detective Rabbi David Small is perhaps not an outstanding mystery - Small solves the murder of Elspeth Bleech only because of special knowledge - but that isn't the book's only point. Like Tony Hillerman's books, he intends it to be, in the modern term,
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"edutainment" which will give Gentiles (and some Jews as well) an insight into the nature of Judaism, and in this he succeeds.
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LibraryThing member krazy4katz
I probably read this book many years ago and enjoyed it. Frankly, I think it's a bit dated. I figured out the mystery pretty early on but wasn't sure how Rabbi Small would get there. Actually, I am surprised the police chief didn't get it when I did. Some of the stereotypes are wearing thin for me.
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Although Jewish, I don't know that much about the Talmud. However I really didn't see much in the way of Talmudic logic in Rabbi Small's deductions. OK, but I probably won't bother with the rest of the series
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LibraryThing member Kathy89
This is a easy book to listen to while walking for fitness. A woman's body is found on the grounds of the Temple and her handbag was found in the backseat of his car in the parking lot. The Rabbi is a suspect and his congregation doesn't want the notriety. There was a big clue early on and I
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guessed the murderer and it was just left to the Rabbi Small to solve the case.
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LibraryThing member ozzie65
Are you jonesing for Mad Men? Well, this quirky little mystery book will satisfy your need to be thrown back into early 1960’s American culture. This is one book in a series of Rabbi mysteries so fret not – you can find more of them.

Rabbi David Small is an unconventional, shabby scholar who has
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been hired as the religious leader of a small but growing Jewish enclave. The congregation leaders are mostly well to do businessman and up and comers whose use for the synagogue is more networking with each other than god.

A murder occurs near the Temple and all manner of individuals associated with the Temple, including Rabbi Small, are under suspicion. The Rabbi has a unique take on life, frequently turning to texts and religious works to find answers to moral and legal problems facing his flock.

Think a combination of Columbo and Quincy and you have Rabbi Small. Inevitably, problem solved. Easy reading and something just a little different than your average mystery story. It’s not mind bending stuff here, just entertaining.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Rabbi David Small is Barnard Crossing's newest rabbi. His presence is a mixed blessing. While the community debates renewing his contact for the next year he is simultaneously fingered as the prime suspect in a murder case. It's hard to dismiss the evidence - the murdered girl's purse is found in
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his car and he admits being in the area at the presumed time of death. In the interest of clearing his name (and getting his contact renewed) Rabbi Small becomes a professional snoop, helping with the investigation. He becomes friendly with the lead detective and they share leads as well as discussions on religion. It is interesting to note how police work has changed! In this day and age Rabbi Small would never been able to interview the victim's employer or search her room and yet, he does both; ultimately solving the case.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
I found this in a hotel, read it in one day. It was fun. I don't know whether I was exceptionally bright, the author dull, or perhaps he was just fair. Anyway, I figured out the solution to the mystery as soon as the perpetrator was introduced. Still, the mystery wasn't the best part of this book.
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The best part was the insight into Judaism and especially the role of the rabbi.
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LibraryThing member ahef1963
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman is the first in the series of mysteries featuring Rabbi David Small. Rabbi Small is a brand-new rabbi, a newlywed, working on his PhD about Moses Maimonides, and enjoying his tenure in his seaside Massachusetts temple.

One Friday night a dead woman is
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found in the temple parking lot; her purse is found in the back seat of Rabbi Small's car. The temple board of directors thinks that they need a more experienced rabbi - one more conservative, and one a little older. Things are not going well for David Small.

I loved the Rabbi David Small mysteries when I was a teenager. I have a lifelong fascination for Judaism, and these books offered an eager young woman the chance to have a glimpse into rabbinic life, and I was intrigued by new-to-me words and ideas such as minyan and Talmud and phylacteries. I'm in my late 50s now, and I found the narrative rather dull, the mysteries contrived, and the outdatedness of the male/female relationship within and without marriage made me wince more than once.

I have three more David Small books on my reader (they came in an inexpensive four-pack), and I will probably finish them, as despite their outdated quality, they are relaxing and easy to read, which are great qualities when my days are stressful.
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LibraryThing member ParadisePorch
I've been meaning to start this series for some time and I'm really glad I finally got around to it.

This vintage 1964 book has all the elements of a great mystery; all the clues are fairly presented to the reader and a brilliant sleuth in Rabbi David Small. It's not-quite-a-cozy.

Definitely a
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series I'm continuing on with.
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LibraryThing member danhammang
This is a gentle whodunnit, not quite a cozy, not quite an 'armchair' tale solved by logic alone. It certainly has some of the hallmarks of the 'Golden Age' mysteries. In the end I'd describe it as a mystery that turns on the character of the Rabbi. It gently...generously, includes peeks at the
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culture and religion of Judaism in 20th century suburbia. In this sense you could call it 'a slice of life' novel which is probably the main reason I enjoyed it. The identification of the perpetrator didn't come until very late but the clues ... and red herrings are all there.

The cover identifies this published version as part of The Best Mysteries of All Time, which is, apparently, part of a Reader's Digest series gambit. The About The Author section at the end of the book is several pages long and quite interesting. It gives the normal data points you would expect in a bio or an obit, as well as some of the twists and turns involved in a writing career. I might have been tempted into the series back in the day ...
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LibraryThing member Jean_Sexton
Written in 1964, the book won the 1965 Edgar Award for first novel. Reading it, I can see why. It is a gentle mystery that isn't quite a cozy mystery. It blurs the line between solving the mystery with straight logic and a mystery with a warm, fuzzy character. While Rabbi Small is fuzzy about some
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things, there is nothing fuzzy about his intellect or understanding of the Jewish religion.

This classic-style mystery plays fair with the reader. All the clues are there; the rabbi simply assembles them first. I love that sort of mystery,s o I will be reading more.

While I had read some books in this series long ago in my early teens, this wasn't one of them. However, I loved it as much as I remember loving the other books.

Highly recommended for people who enjoy mysteries.
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LibraryThing member jetangen4571
law-enforcement, murder, murder-investigation, family-dynamics, friendship, Jewish, Jewish-law, prejudice, small-town, amateur-sleuth*****

Came back to read the first in series because I wanted to know how the Rabbi got to be friends with the police chief. This one comes near the end of Rabbi
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Small's firs and possibly last year in the town. There is contention within the politics of the congregation and things get muddier when a young woman is killed and Rabbi Small seems to be implicated. Great story with lessons for all sleuths.
George Guidell is the calm narrator with a wry sense of humor.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
First in the Rabbi series, they all educate the reader about Jewish traditions and have fun being a mystery along the way.
LibraryThing member MyopicBookworm
Entertaining, and informative about Judaism and about the life of the small-town middle classes in 1950s New England. (Only one incidental error of fact: Greek Orthodox priests are not allowed to get married, although men who are already married are allowed to be ordained priest.) MB 2-ix-2021
LibraryThing member Condorena
While I figured out the answer to the mystery early in the book,it in no way detracted from what I got from this r easing experience. This book was written decades ago but the story survives the test of time. Rabbi David Small takes a position in a faily small Motown where he hopes he can do some
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good but his quiet ways are not appreciated by all. He is above all a teacher and in this capacity he teaches the readers, the police and some of the members of his congregation some comparative religion as well as what they need to know about Judaism.
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Original publication date



0449211800 / 9780449211809
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