Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I Wanna Be Like Her--Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger


Move over, Miss Marple—Mark Reutlinger’s charming cozy debut introduces readers to the unforgettable amateur sleuth Rose Kaplan and her loyal sidekick, Ida.
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.

Review by Rochelle Weber:

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death is told in first person by Mrs. K’s best friend, side-kick, and God-forbid-we-should-get-caught accomplice, Ida Berkowitz. And since the manuscript is peppered with Yiddish words and phrases, how could a meshggina shiksa (crazy gentile gal) like me possibly understand it? Well, first, Mrs. Berkowitz (aka Mr. Reutlinger) puts the Yiddish words in italics with the English translations in parentheses, as I just did. And second, we live in a multicultural world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried my way through Fiddler on the Roof, or laughed as Nora Dunn declared she was, “…getting a little verklempt,” and told the audience to, “Talk amongst yourselves” on Saturday Night Live. I grew up watching comics on TV who paid their dues at resorts in the Catskills, known as “The Borscht Belt.” If you pay attention, Baby walks out of the dining room as the resort owner introduces the comic in Dirty Dancing. So, to make a short story long, I was able to hear Mrs. B’s voice in full Yiddish cadence just fine, which greatly enhanced my reading experience, nu? (right?)

Rose Kaplan is not only the matzoh ball soup maven at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors, she’s probably the smartest person there, including the staff. Since Bertha Finkelstein was found face-down in her soup having choked on Daisy Goldfarb’s stolen earring, and no one else was allowed in the kitchen while Rose was making the soup, the staff and police figure they have an open-and-shut case. But Rose knows she did not put that earring there, and she’s pretty sure she’d have noticed if someone had stuffed it into the flour or one of the other ingredients. So, she sets out to prove her innocence and find the culprit with her best-friend, Ida Berkowitz in tow. Ida doesn’t always know what Rose is going to do next, but Oy Vey! God forbid they should get caught!

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death is a warm, witty, suspenseful book that hooked me on the first page and kept me laughing and wondering along with Ida what plot Mrs. K. was going to come up with next to dig up evidence on someone else and find the real culprit/s and clear her name. They go so far as to hire a burglar to search some of the residents’ rooms during a concert, but the burglar is delayed and breaks a leg before she can get to the final room, so Mrs. K. climbs through the window herself with Ida on guard outside on movie night. I wanna be like her when I grow up!

If you’re reading this review before November 18, 2014, reserve your copy now! Otherwise, buy it now! I’m having aftershocks of chuckles just thinking about the book as I write this review. And I’m craving matzoh ball soup. Know of any place in the far north Chicago suburbs that serves a gluten-free version?

Length:  Page Count TBA
Digital Price:  $2.99

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Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie, Donna, & Rochelle

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