Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet

Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet is a 1976 novel, the 6th of the 12-book Rabbi Small mystery series by Harry Kemelman. The series was adapted for television: 1) the first book was adapted as a made-for-tv movie in 1976; 2) using that as a pilot, a series of 4 90-minute movies were aired in 1977 as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series. Both of these adaptations starred Art Carney as the chief detective. I'd never even heard of these, much less seen them, and they don't seem to be available either on DVD or online.

I don't read them in order, just picking them up as I come across them. This was one of two The Younger Son picked up for me in the used book section at our local bookseller. He remembered how much I'd enjoyed them. The characters are intriguing, the plots interesting, and I learn so much about Conservative Judaism just in passing.

from the dust jacket:
Rabbi David Small has become one of the most endearing sleuths in modern fiction. Irascible and compassionate, innocent and worldly wise, Rabbi Small can see the third side of any question, an exceptional talent he employs, along with Talmudic reasoning and insight, to solve the high crime of murder.

Now, in his latest novel in this spectacularly successful series, Harry Kemelman once again portrays the all-too-human world of Barnard's Crossing, the New England town where Rabbi Small serves as the religious leader of the temple.

This time the rabbi becomes involved in the mysterious death of an old man with many enemies, a death that intrigues and eventually fascinates both him and the town's chief of police, Hugh Lanigan.

But finding the solution to a puzzling death is not the only matter that concerns Rabbi Small. He is involved in saving the innocent from disgrace and the charge of murder, while also fighting the temple's well-intentioned but erring board of directors over a question of high principle.

One of the great appeals of Harry Kemelman's novels is the way he skillfully weaves the teachings of Judaism into the plot. In Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet the author presents, through Rabbi Small, a fascinating view of the Jewish attitudes toward meditation, mysticism, religious retreats, and Christianity.

Those who have read Harry Kemelman's earlier novels will find Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet among his very best. Those who have yet to become acquainted with Rabbi Small and Barnard's Crossing have a delectable treat in store for them.
I've read the following in this series:

1. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (1964) (read in January, 2006)
3. Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home (1969)
7. Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out (1978)
10. One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross (1987) (read in March, 2006)

The author died in December of 1996, at the age of 88.


  1. I've never heard of this TV series, nor the books, so this was a new and interesting series for me. Thanks for reviewing it.

    1. I can't find the video adaptations anywhere. I do enjoy the books. A cozy series :)