Killed by a Knish by Carol Novis
What secrets lie hidden in the Jewish Community Archive of Aurora, Minnesota?
Life is ho-hum at the luxurious Minnie and Isaac Memorial Menorah Retirement Home for Ellie Shapiro, until Sam, a popular fellow resident, drops dead after eating a knish that she’s baked. Other murders follow. With her fellow sleuths, formidable octogenarian Riva, ditzy gossip Mollie and Sam’s hapless teen-age grandson Noam, Ellie sets out to find the killer.
But will the disapproval of Ellie’s hunky crush, Hal, stop the motley detection team before the killer gets her? And will the Menorah’s uptight administrator forbid Ellie from doing the baking she loves?
Over the course of the book, Ellie gains confidence, a friend, a new career and yes, the guy, as the action takes her from the Menorah kitchens to an out of control fight at a mahjongg game and a revelatory visit to gambling casino, culminating in a confrontation with a crazed murderer.
You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this kosher Cozy Mystery, which combines romance, suspense, humor – even recipes – in the first of a series reminiscent of Harry Kemelman’s popular Rabbi Small novels, Sharon Kahn’s “Fax me a Bagel” and Leighann Dobb’s Lexy Bake (“Wedded Blintz”).
Readers who will identify with the heroine of this rollicking, humorous, fast-action plot include seniors, foodies and devotees of Cozy Mysteries with a twist.
The Book Doctors: Oy! What a fun pitch – we plotzed – we’re verklempt. Publishers, agents and readers are looking for things that are familiar and yet unique. There is a tried-and-true audience for a great cozy mystery. An established audience. But I have yet to see anyone exploit the Kosher Cozy Mystery niche on the world wide bookshelf. And to place it in Minnesota, which we associate so heavily with those flat, WASP tight lipped Lutherans that inhabit the Cohen Brothers’ Fargo and Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone, seems so humorously antithetical. I love the specificity of it. The mahjongg, the menorahs and the knishes. And you do make it clear that there is a madcap plot, with a little bit of romance, and a plucky heroine at the center trying to do what she loves (baking), and get the guy. And I think you have very good comparable titles. Now, how do I make it better? First of all, don’t tell me she gets the guy in the end. That’s like pitching me a mystery and saying, “And in the end, the butler did it.” Does she get the guy? The answer that question is: You have to read the book. I don’t like it when you tell me it’s rollicking, it’s humorous, you just have to show me the machinations of the plot without revealing too much. In that language is so generic, you see that in 1 million pitches, if you’re away from your hook, which is the Minnesota Jewish subculture. “Oy, you betcha!” I don’t like it when you see a crazed murderer. Again, too generic. How is your crazed murderer different than all the other crazed murderers I’ve seen in a million mysteries? I think when Sam drops dead, it’s not dramatic enough. You have a dead body. It’s your job to show us you can either make us laugh or take our breath away with that dead body. Or possibly both! And the first sentence is too long. Very good pitch, really fun story, needs a little tightening, and a little polishing.
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