Rabbi Ben Maimon

(creator: Marvin J Wolf)

Marvin J Wolf
Rabbi Ben Maimon (who avoids giving his age) is described as "a detective who happens to be a rabbi as well." His detective work had begun by chance six years earlier when, with "careful planning, a little cautious skulduggery and a bit of luck" he had managed to clear an accused teacher. Two years later, he had been invited to perform a similar service.

He "still dreams of having a pulpit, but he accepted that it was unlikely. He settled into his new profession and stayed surprisingly busy for a man who never advertised his services." He ascribed his success to "the application of Talmudic logic to complex issues. I also use people skills to get cooperation, computer skills, my skills as an administrator and educator and my knowledge of secular and non-secular subjects. I have studied aberrant psychology extensively; I have some mechanical talent and artistic accomplishments. And I can draw upon a nationwide of scientific experts …. I don't carry a gun or any weapon. I seek the truth and harm no one unless it's necessary to stop them from harming me or others." He was also an expert in the martial arts. No one could accuse him of being excessively modest!

His grandfather had been a distinguished rabbi and great scholar, though his own father had not been Jewish but had died rather mysteriously when he was only a little boy. His whole Hebrew name is Moshe Benyamoi, but he is known as simply Ben. He had attended MIT where he had majored in computer science. His wife and young daughter had been killed in a bomb explosion in Jerusalem eight years before we meet him, and less then a year after they had married. It was 17 months after this that he had been ordained rabbi in the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

His very first job interview had led to a medical that revealed that he had been infected with HIV. This was because after the bomb he had been covered not only with his own blood but with that of other victims. His job offer had been promptly withdrawn. He longed for a cure but meanwhile did his best to keep fit by running five miles a day.

Marvin J(ules) Wolf (1941- ) was born in Chicago and attended American University and Newark State College as well as the University of Maryland and California State University. He worked as a U.S. Army combat photographer in Vietnam and was decorated for his service there. After his army service and a succession of media jobs, he became a full time free lance writer-photographer in 1978. He went on to write some 18 books. His first novel, The Tattooed Rabbi, was published in 2011. It was subsequently republished under the title For Whom the Shofar Blows which is reviewed below. He is Jewish and divorced with one daughter, and lives in Los Angeles.

For Whom the Shofar Blows (2013, a reprint of The Tattooed Rabbi, 2011).
For Whom the Shofar Blows is set in Burbank. Rabbi Ben (about whom we are told a lot) learns that a deposit of over two million dollars (the author's website oddly describes it as three million dollars) had appeared in a little-used congregational bank account. He is asked to find out who deposited the money and whether or not the shul may keep it! This gets the story off to an interesting start, then a body turns up in an unsold cemetery plot, and the congregation's beloved secretary is brutally murdered.

Ben's investigation leads him to a decrepit cemetery, the unexpected discovery of his father's grave, a mysterious private bank, a shofar-blowing, part-Korean cabinet-maker (a shofar is a ram's horn), drug smuggling and the ultimate in money laundering techniques. Along the way he survives a hit-and-run murder attempt, defuses a bomb in his living room and wriggles out of his intended early grave.

So plenty happens and the story is sexually explicit as when Ben (very conscious that he has HIV) fights off the attention of over friendly women. The Jewish background is convincingly portrayed, although more explanation of the Yiddish terms might have helped. However, the way that the police suddenly change from being aggressive bullies to friendly colleagues seems a bit unlikely, the pace sometimes slows down too much, and the explanations at the end get rather tedious. There is also some eccentric spacing in the Kindle edition. But the not entirely attractive character of Ben continues to demand attention.

The author has his own website, and there are numerous mentions of him, including some video interviews, on the web.

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For Whom the Shofar Blows cover
This is the first Rabbi Ben mystery and is set against a convincing Jewish background.
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