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Rabbi Small

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Title: Rabbi Small  
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Subject: Detective fiction
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Rabbi Small

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author Harry Kemelman
Country United States
Language English
Series Rabbi Small
Genre Mystery Novel
Publisher Fawcett-Crest Book
Publication date 1964
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 160 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-449-20851-6
OCLC Number 12883658

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late is a mystery novel written by Harry Kemelman in 1964, the first of the successful Rabbi Small series.

Plot introduction

The fictional hero of the book, David Small, is the unconventional leader of the Conservative Jewish congregation in the fictional suburban Massachusetts town of Barnard's Crossing. As the protagonist of a series of novels, Rabbi Small has wisdom, an unerring sense of Jewish tradition (which can at times put him at odds with the Jewish community when he believes that they are seriously deviating from Judaism) and all the good qualities of a detective sharpened by his Talmudic training, which enables him to see the third side of a problem. He is a devoted husband to his wife and (later in the series) father to his two children Jonathan and Hepsibah. Small's logic, learned from the Talmud, plays an important part in the plots. Usually Small is drawn into the events when they involve a member of his congregation or Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community in general. Among other characters is Hugh Lanigan, the Catholic local police chief, and the two friends often discuss religion over a cup of tea. Small has many troubles with his congregation and he is constantly at odds with at least one of its powerful members, usually the Temple President at the time.

Plot summary

The body of a young woman is found on the grounds of the Temple. The woman had been strangled and evidence points to Rabbi Small - her purse is found in his car, which had been left in the Temple parking lot the night before.

Characters in "Friday the Rabbi Slept Late"

  • David Small – the newly hired Rabbi of the title, protagonist
  • Hugh Lanigan – the local police chief
  • Miriam Small – the Rabbi's wife
  • Jacob Wasserman – the President of the Temple
  • Al Becker – local car dealer, unfriendly towards Rabbi Small
  • Elspeth Bleech – the murder victim, whose body is found on the Temple grounds
  • Stanley Doble – the Temple custodian and handyman, later suspected in Elspeth's murder

Awards and nominations

The novel received an Edgar Award in 1965, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best First Novel.

Film adaptations

Kemelman received $35,000 for the movie rights to the novel. A made-for-TV adaptation with the title Lanigan's Rabbi was broadcast on NBC in 1976, starring Art Carney as Chief Paul Lanigan and Stuart Margolin as Rabbi David Small. A short-lived TV series followed as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie, with Carney reprising his role as Chief Lanigan, and Bruce Solomon taking over the role of Rabbi Small.

Release details

The novel has been released in unabridged audiobook format by arrangement with The Harry Kemelman Estate by Recorded Books, Inc. (ISBN 0-7887-1300-0), 1997 and narrated by George Guidall.

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