Through some wonderful recommendations from folks I have learnt to trust now, I came across this brilliant mystery series featuring one of the most likeable characters I have read, Rabbi Small. I enjoy reading mystery as a genre the most - in that whodunit has a special place in my mind. It is the most difficult genre to write effectively.
This short read falls in the category that Agatha Christie had mastered -- the story unravels itself for both the reader and the central characters together. Everything is laid out in front of the reader with nothing being held back by the "intelligent" detective. I hate the I-knew-it-all-along sort of twists. The mysteries that don't employ such ploys can leave you with satisfaction that is of the highest order.
It is not the underlying mystery that charmed me though. It is the sincere presentation of Jewish culture in a small-town community of Barnard's Crossing, notwithstanding the humorous undertone that author Harry Kemelman maintains throughout. I loved the setting of the lovable town and the characters big and small - I connected with each one of them. I enjoyed the discussions that David Small gets into every now and then, for that matter right from the get-go when he untangles the middling mystery of a broken vehicle with his simple, basic yet effective method of listening. I knew right away that I was in for an enjoyable ride.
This is an intelligent book with a common, sincere central character. He is not the only intelligent being around - each supporting character is important and equally worthy. I loved Rabbi Small's bantering with Chief Lanigan on topics both related and unrelated to the mystery. The later, equally smart, is not there just to hear the detective unravel the mystery towards the end. He is involved too. In that manner, this book is special.
I haven't been this engaged while reading a book, or to find what happens next since a long time now. And I don't remember the last time when I rushed to pick the second book in the series this soon. I think it was when I read Christie for the first time.
I would recommend this to anyone interested in a light, cosy mystery and is ok to not be held up in the cleverness of the plot or presentation. The simplicity, then, will win you over.