Book Review: Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of DeathMrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
Mark Reutlinger
Alibi, November 2014
ISBN 9780553393392

From the publisher—

Everyone knows that Rose Kaplan makes the best matzoh ball soup around—she’s a regular matzoh ball maven—so it’s no surprise at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors when, once again, Mrs. K wins the honor of preparing the beloved dish for the Home’s seder on the first night of Passover.
But when Bertha Finkelstein is discovered facedown in her bowl of soup, her death puts a bit of a pall on the rest of the seder. And things go really meshugge when it comes out that Bertha choked on a diamond earring earlier stolen from resident Daisy Goldfarb. Suddenly Mrs. K is the prime suspect in the police investigation of both theft and murder. Oy vey—it’s a recipe for disaster, unless Rose and her dear friend Ida can summon up the chutzpah to face down the police and solve the mystery themselves.

Spending a pleasant afternoon with a quiet little mystery is never a bad thing and Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death fills the bill quite nicely. Our two senior sleuths, Rose Kaplan and Ida Berkowitz, are intelligent women who are not just going to sit there and let the world go by so doing their own snooping comes naturally when Mrs. K is accused of being a thief and a killer.

I enjoyed these two ladies but the supporting cast is less well developed and I didn’t feel the same attachment to any of those characters. In particular, the two police detectives are mere shadow figures and certainly don’t behave as detectives normally would. I also felt that far too much emphasis was placed on the players being Jewish and being residents of the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors. We’re told over and over again where these folks live when that is really not necessary since nearly all the action takes place there and the very, very liberal use of Yiddish quickly became annoying. I get it, they’re Jewish and this is a Jewish senior home but, except for the soup and the seder at which it’s served, this could easily have been any nondescript community. Judaism really isn’t a factor.

The mystery itself is a puzzle, as it should be, and I didn’t guess the solution ahead of time but one aspect of the ladies’ investigation made no sense as a certain item would not have been returned to the victim’s room after her death. No matter, though, as I did spend an enjoyable afternoon with Rose and Ida and, with a little work by the author, a second adventure could be worth waiting for.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.



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About the Author

Mark ReutlingerMark Reutlinger is the author of the novel Made in China and a professor of law emeritus at Seattle University. Born in San Francisco, Mark graduated from UC Berkeley and now lives with his wife, Analee, in University Place, Washington.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger

  1. A murder victim found face down in her bowl of soup? This sound great! Sometimes I feel a little skittish laughing about murder, but I think it’s something us mystery writers do. We take murders in fiction books lightly because that’s part of the plot and no real murder has taken place. This sounds like a keeper.


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