Book Review: A Scribe Dies in Brooklyn - Of Old Manuscripts, Cash, and Blood

Here’s my book review of A Scribe Dies in Brooklyn, a Rabbi Ben mystery by Marvin J. Wolf.

The second Rabbi Ben Mystery (Cover by Stacey Aaronson/Rambam Press)

If you’ve followed these reviews, you know I talked about Abandoned in Hell, a Vietnam war memoir coauthored by Marvin Wolf. That review has had more hits than any of mine so far, both in text on the Splash Magazines website and in the GetPublished! Radio podcasts. I believe that’s because Marv is a masterful storyteller who has a knack for finding compelling subjects. (I call him by his first name because, I proudly confess, he’s a colleague and a friend.)

Skydiver, motorcycle owner, and former movie stuntman Matt Marko posed for this rendering of Rabbi Ben and is now himself a rabbi (Photo by Marvin J. Wolf)

You may come to think of Rabbi Ben, the protagonist of Marv’s mystery series, the same way. Here is the kind of righteous, empowered avenger you’d want as a friend if you ever found yourself the target of unscrupulous thugs in a dark alley in the boroughs of New York.

Rabbi Ben's debut (Aaronson/Rambam)

Rabbi Ben Maimon made his literary debut in For Whom the Shofar Blows (originally titled The Tattooed Rabbi). Ben’s mission in this second thriller is to track down a missing ancient manuscript, the Aleppo Codex, the oldest known Hebrew copy of the Tanakh, which contains all twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. If you think a quest for some crusty, old parchment would be a scholarly snore, you’ve been living in a cave and never heard of Dan Brown or never seen Tom Hanks’ portrayals of the obsessive Dr. Robert Langdon. And, like Langdon, Ben has a talent for finding obscure facts, beautiful women who offer their passionate assistance and support, and more physical threats than your average street-wise operative could handle.

The unassuming but quietly dangerous Marvin J. Wolf (Photo by Virginia Bennett)

As to the physical threats, you’d think a man of God would rarely if ever need to resort to violence. But, as in ancient times, these days not only books but also places of worship are being destroyed by zealots who want to rewrite history. And, as the global underground economy grows ever larger, there are thieves and cutthroats who don’t hesitate to kill for religious artifacts because one side or the other is willing to pay for them with suitcases full of cash.

So, as is the deceptively mild-mannered Mr. Wolf, Rabbi Ben is accomplished in the martial arts. If your heart beats faster when a good thriller is peppered with against-the-odds altercations, some bloody, you will not be disappointed.

Another close colleague of mine, the sci-fi cult author Thomas Page, recently reminded me that Ian Fleming believed readers lust after pointless detail. That’s why fans of his James Bond thrillers know a Walther PPK from a Smith & Wesson .45 and why if you drive an Aston Martin you will thank your mechanic for tuning up the turbocharger when you need to make a fast getaway.

Readers of A Scribe Dies in Brooklyn whose scavenger minds likewise lust for detail will learn so much here about Jewish arcana that you might feel as though you’ve successfully completed a college-level course in religious studies.

And you won’t want to wait for the next Rabbi Ben mystery.

Gerald Everett Jones is the author of Bonfire of the Vanderbilts and host of the GetPublished! Radio show with cohosts Cheyenne Cockrell and Thomas Page.

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