The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son is an intriguing and compulsively readable mystery — The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son (A Becks Ruchinsky Mystery) by @WordsByJoanTweet
YOUR HUSBAND DID WHAT!
Writing in first person has its drawbacks
by Joan Lipinsky Cochran
Shortly after the first book in my Becks Ruchinsky mystery series came out, a close friend told me she couldn’t talk to my husband Mike for weeks after she finished my book. She said that every time she came across a reference to Becks’ husband’s affair, she’d become so upset she wanted to call and yell at Mike, who is a kind and gentle man. Thank goodness, she didn’t.
I suspect my decision to write The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter in first person had something to do with my friend’s angst. As a reader, I know how close you can get to a first person point of view character. It’s almost as if the protagonist is confiding in you. So you’re seeing things through their limited world view and, even when you learn what others have said or done to defend themselves, you’re more likely to believe the protagonist.
That happened with my cousin, who wrote to defend my real-life father and tell me that I’d exaggerated my dad’s unscrupulous behavior. I had to explain that it wasn’t Joan narrating the story and the father character was not the man who raised me.
I almost hate to admit it, but I got the biggest kick out of my grown sons’, and nephews’ and niece’s reaction to the book. They thought The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter was about their grandfather. Questions like “Was grandpa really a gangster” and “I didn’t know he worked for Meyer Lansky” sent me into fits of giggles before I, again, explained, the book was a work of fiction. As in, not based on anyone you know.
In my second and recently released book, The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son, I’ve gone with the third person point of view – the he/she /we said this or did that. Writer friends tell me that I’m less likely to face the crazy questions I answered with book one in the series. In The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son, Becks enters the secretive world of Hasidic Jews and the glitzy South Beach nightclub scene to find out who killed an ultra-Orthodox young man. The good news is though I’ve visited Hasidic communities and South Beach nightclubs and learned a great deal about the two universes, no one who knows me will ask if I ordered bottle service at a sleazy nightclub or was driven off the road by an enraged ultra-Orthodox killer. And anyone who’s met my irreverent children is unlikely to question me about their joining a Hasidic sect.
And, as long as we’re discussing point of view, here’s a little test that every creative writing instructor likes to give. Who was the first person POV character and narrator in Great Gatsby? Most people will respond Jay Gatsby. But if you think a moment, you’ll realize his neighbor and friend Nick Carraway is telling the story. Gatsby’s the protagonist but Nick (via F. Scott Fitzgerald) was the person narrating the events of the story.
Excerpt The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son By Joan Lipinsky Cochran
Menachem Tannenbaum slung his backpack over his shoulder and elbowed the bearded men in black hats out of his way as he raced down the stairs of Brooklyn’s Kingston Avenue station. The high-pitched screech of steel on steel and the stench of urine hit him like a slap in the face as he sprinted through the turnstile toward the tracks. Chest burning, he leaped between the subway’s closing doors. The car shuddered and jerked forward.
The rattle of wheel meeting track struck a percussive beat that echoed the drumming of Menachem’s heart. He scanned the passengers’ faces. The stranger who’d chased him was not in the car. His gaze swept the retreating platform. Not there either. He released his breath.
Though long accustomed to the stares of people who’d never seen men in the black coats and sideburns worn by Hasidic Jews, Menachem turned away from the thin Hispanic woman throwing surreptitious glances his way. He knew that, to such people, he was indistinguishable from the other black-hatted men on the train. He hoped the stranger pursuing him was equally blind. Even so, he sought the safety of obscurity and moved closer to the Hasidic men clustered at the front of the subway—a flock of crows dangling from a metal overhead bar.
Once the subway gained speed, he dropped into a bench and considered his options. He’d panicked—as usual. He should have slipped out of the deli the moment he spotted the stranger. He thought it was the man he’d seen with Levi two years earlier. The stranger had been thinner then and worn his black hair brushed back from his forehead like the old Italians in the neighborhood. Now his belly hung over his belt like a deflated basketball and his hair fell in a greasy tangle across his forehead.
But there was no mistaking the stranger’s beady-eyed glare at Menachem in the deli. When the man rose from his chair and headed in his direction, Menachem threw a ten on the table and ran. From the pounding on the sidewalk behind him, he knew the stranger was on his tail. But the man had at least fifteen years and twenty-five pounds on Menachem and his footsteps soon faded.
Once his breathing was back to normal, Menachem’s curiosity returned. What was the stranger doing in Crown Heights? This was the first time he’d seen the man since Levi’s arrest two years earlier. He felt a stab of guilt at the thought of his friend. He’d visited Levi only once at the prison in upstate New York where he was sent for two years for drug trafficking. Menachem was devastated by the desperation in his best friend’s eyes and didn’t have the courage to return.
Boca Raton reporter Becks Ruchinsky is stunned when her son, Gabe, brings an ultra-Orthodox friend home from college and asks her to hide him. Six days later, his body is found floating in a canal. When police deem his death an accident, Becks launches her own inquiry—a journey that takes her from secretive Hasidic enclaves to the seedy underbelly of South Beach’s glitzy club scene—to find his killer. What she discovers jeopardizes her son’s life and challenges her religious conviction.
The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son is an intriguing and compulsively readable mystery that contrasts the beauty of Hasidic tradition with the unbending rules that may lead to desperation and murder.
Buy Links: Amazon
Joan Lipinsky Cochran is a South Florida-based writer whose crime and mystery novels focus on subcultures of American Judaism. In her latest novel, The Hasidic Rebbe’s Son, her protagonist is compelled to explore the glitzy South Beach nightclub scene and the secretive world of Hasidic Judaism to find a killer. It is the second in The Becks Ruchinsky Mystery Series. The first, The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter, is the story of a woman whose world is upended – and life threatened – when she discovers her father was a member of the Jewish mafia.
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