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8 Jewish Cozy Mysteries to Read During Hanukkah

Celebrate tradition with these Jewish mysteries. 

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  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Alla Kemelmakher / Unsplash

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday observed for eight days that starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew Calendar, which usually falls sometime in December. 

It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem after the Maccabean victories over the forces of the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in the 2nd century BCE. According to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found one small jar of oil enough to burn for a single day, but astoundingly, the oil burned for eight entire days instead. 

This is why the menorah is lit during Hanukkah: one branch each day until all 9 candles (a candle for each day and one “helper candle” known as the shamash) shine brightly on the last evening.  Jewish people also celebrate with songs, games, gifts, and traditional foods fried in oil—an additional homage to the miracle. 

If you’re looking for another way to celebrate this cherished holiday, you can pick up a cozy mystery novel that centers around Hanukkah or features Jewish detectives. Here are eight Jewish cozy mysteries you can enjoy during the eight days of observance!  

Chanukah Guilt

Chanukah Guilt

By Ilene Schneider

Author Rabbi Ilene Schneider, one of the first six women rabbis in the U.S., introduces readers to Aviva Cohen, a 50-something, twice-divorced rabbi who leads a life of routine in southern New Jersey. Her days are mainly filled with religious counseling, but sometimes she must also officiate funerals. However, this time, at the end of a disliked real estate tycoon William Phillips’ funeral, two of his family members ask Aviva for help with investigating his murder. 

Aviva doesn’t believe them until one of the two is found dead, supposedly by suicide. A self-proclaimed yenta, this spiritual leader must use her nosy nature to become a rookie detective, all the while dealing with her first ex-husband, the newest chief of police. This is the perfect cozy mystery opener that will have audiences wanting to see what other mystery mishaps Rabbi Aviva Cohen will face.    


Too Many Latkes: A Chanukah Mystery

By Sonia Zylberberg

Both Jewish people and non-Jewish people have gathered to celebrate Chanukah. They have been eagerly waiting to eat latkes, a delicious potato pancake that has come to signify freedom of religion. But there’s word around the neighborhood that these tasty morsels have been tainted with poison! This charming mystery will have you craving these crispy fried potato pancakes (excluding the poison, of course!). 


The Melancholy Menorah

By Libi Astaire

In this Jewish Regency Mystery, widower-turned-sleuth Mr. Ezra Melamed must investigate why the old, weathered menorah that the members of London’s Great Synagogue want to replace with a newer, more refined replacement is refusing to leave its location on the Eastern Wall. Is it perhaps divine intervention or a wicked plot from someone up to no good? Either way, it’s up to this detective to find some answers before Chanukah.


Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs: A Hanukkah Humdinger

By Rabbi Susan Abramson and Aaron Dvorkin

This children’s book features the world’s first female rabbi, Jewish superhero! Menorahs are going missing, and Rabbi Beatrice Ann Mensch by day, and superhero Rabbi Rocketpower by night must use her powers to figure out who’s responsible for stealing them. Young readers and adults alike will enjoy unraveling the mystery alongside these wacky characters, including a space alien cat named Purr. 

Interspersed throughout the story are Orthodox Jewish traditions, as well as directions to play the dreidel game and two recipes to make sufganiyot and latkes. For those unfamiliar with the Jewish terms used, there is a helpful glossary at the end of the book. This funny, entertaining, and heartwarming mystery will become a family favorite!


The Case of the Disappearing Chanukah Candles

By Ellen Roteman

Another entertaining mystery for young readers features the Five Star Detectives, 11-year-old Shimmy Stern and his siblings, who must figure out why Mrs. Rabinovitz’s menorah candles keep going missing when she lives alone. Something strange is certainly happening, but will these kid detectives be able to solve this unusual case before Chanukah? Not only will the story teach your kids about the importance of teamwork, but it also promises to be a fun and exciting mystery for your little ones to decipher alongside these clever detectives.


The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah

By Libi Astaire

After elderly mystery writer Agatha Krinsky falls yet again, her nephew Sheldon is adamant about moving her into an assisted living facility where she will be safer. That’s at least what he believed. But when Agatha finds a dead body in the library of her new facility, she realizes she would have definitely been safer staying in her own home. 

Since her companions—Herschel Perlow, Miss Eppel, and Ronny and Rubles Bernfeldare—are not much help to her, she must figure out who’s out for blood on her own. A funny Chanukah-themed homage to some of the best detectives in history, this collection showcases four short mysteries, including: “The Latke in the Library,” “Evil Under the Wick,” “And Then There Were Gornisht,” and “The Olive Cracked.”


Facials Can Be Fatal

By Nancy J. Cohen

Florida salon owner Marla Vail would much rather be spending her time planning her family’s joint Christmas-Hanukkah party than solving a murder. But now she must do both after one of her clients, a philanthropist who was known for supporting a historic preservation society, dies at her day spa. She’ll need to enter the world of high society to save her spa’s reputation and learn more about her client’s complicated life, all while trying to protect herself from someone willing to kill to keep secrets buried.

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

By Harry Kemelman

The first book in the New York Times-bestselling series and the winner of the Edgar Award centers around David Small, a new rabbi in the town of Barnard’s Crossing who finds a nanny’s body in his temple’s parking lot. He will have to use his intellect and Talmudic wisdom while working with an Irish-Catholic police chief to prove his innocence after the young woman’s purse is found in his car. Although this story is slower-paced, it is a mystery you won’t be able to put down once you start, since you’ll be curious as to how the detailed observations of this intelligent rabbi will be used to crack the case. 

Featured photo: Alla Kemelmakher / Unsplash