cover image The Day the Rabbi Resigned

The Day the Rabbi Resigned

Harry Kemelman. Ballantine Books, $20 (273pp) ISBN 978-0-449-90681-1

Politics--religious and academic--inform this welcome encore from the always entertaining Kemelman ( Conversations with Rabbi Small ), whose previous Rabbi Small mysteries have won him a legion of fans. Twenty-five years after coming to the Boston suburb of Barnard's Crossing, Rabbi David Small is considering retirement. But before he can get so much as one foot out of the pulpit, a local college professor dies in a car accident and the weary clergyman finds himself once again drawn from his own everyday concerns into more serious matters. A known gigolo, the professor had recently wed the unattractive niece of a college benefactor in a bid to ensure his tenure. At first the authorities ascribe his death to drunk driving, but as the tawdry details of the man's life become known, police chief Hugh Lanigan suspects foul play and enlists the help of his old friend and partner in detection, Rabbi Small. Moving between scenes at the synagogue with its ever-squabbling board of directors and the fiercely competitive tenure-track tableaux at the college, the narrative never flags as clues and suspects accumulate. Lively dialogue, dry wit and wonderfully authentic detail make this a sure winner. (Feb.)