Fax Me a Bagel: A Ruby, the Rabbi's Wife Mystery
Ruby has been a widow for more than a year now, since the hit-and-run death of her beloved husband, Stu. She should be free to start a new life, but once a rabbi’s wife, always a rabbi’s wife, at least in Eternal. Ruby can’t even escape her least favorite member of the congregation, Essie Sue Margolis—who wears designer clothes to take out the garbage. Ruby figures she should be safe from Essie Sue at eleven in the morning at The Hot Bagel. Wrong. Still, The Hot Bagel makes the best baked goods west of the Hudson, and Ruby’s not about to miss her favorite morning fix. Ruby soon discovers that she has more on her proverbial plate than poppy seeds. Marla, sister of the much disliked Essie Sue, goes into a convulsion and dies, leaving not only her bagels on the table but more unanswered questions than Ruby could ever have imagined. Was Marla’s death an accident? Was it part of a plan? How does it fit into other unexplained deaths in the small Texas community that straddles the worlds of the plantation South and the rugged West?
You gotta love Ruby Rothman, the Eternal, Texas, rebbitzen (rabbi’s wife) with a craving for bagels. Actually, she’s the rabbi’s widow when this engaging mystery begins, but it isn’t until days after a member of the congregation pushes in front of Ruby in line at the Hot Bagel and bites off more than she can chew—a little cyanide—that Ruby begins to wonder if there’s a connection between the poisoned bagel and her husband’s death a year ago in a hit-and-run accident. But right now she’s got more immediate things to think about—like clearing the cloud of suspicion that’s settled like flour on her friend Milt, the bagel baker, and avoiding the clutches of Essie Sue, the temple yenta, who’s determined to make a shiddach (match) between Ruby and the new rabbi of Temple Rita (don’t ask). The action moves from East Texas to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, connected by a family feud and a cunning killer who’s out to give Ruby more than a minor case of heartburn. Fax Me a Bagel has some structural problems—too many plot points are worked out in a series of e-mails between Ruby and her friend Nan instead of being explicated in action and narrative; and Kahn has a tendency to tell instead of show. But Ruby is an appealing heroine, and this debut mystery has “series” written all over it. —Jane Adams