Secrets of the Rabbi's Mafia

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
536 Pages
Reviewed on 04/02/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Olga Markova for Readers' Favorite

Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia by Irv Segal is a fascinating mystery on a dazzling mission to delight the most discerning fans of crime fiction and international legal thrillers. The story unfolds in 1995 in Chicago’s Cook County. Jack Cooper is a graduate of Rabbinical College who spent his younger life in the secluded Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Recently divorced, Jack braves the turn-point exit from the Ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and ventures out to his first Jewish singles event where he meets Mindy Stein. She is a mother of three, married to Ultra-Orthodox Sender Stein whom she is seeking to divorce. Mindy and Jake take to each other but Mindy’s pending divorce stands in their way. Before long, Jack finds himself investigating the murder of Mindy’s husband.

While reading Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia I felt as if I was watching a 4DX film, navigating the uncharted waters of Talmudic law and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish traditions amidst the citrusy scent of esrog and cozy cholent permeating the scenes of atmospheric celebrations of Shabbos and Bar Mitzvah. I was fascinated by the superb atmosphere and exquisite complexity of the plot as it evolves in this easy-to-read and fast-moving story, unforgettable for its all-around brilliance. Irv Segal eruditely enhances the suspense and mystery with witty insights into the Talmudic laws, leading to unexpected revelations. I am delighted to have discovered Segal’s book, and I look forward to reading his next mystery.

Manik Chaturmutha

Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia by Irv Segal is an action-adventure story set in 1995. It centers around a hidden conspiracy and a case of a secret killer among the people. It is set against the backdrop of a Jewish clique and the simple, daily lives of the characters, but the mystery behind the story surfaces with a hidden conspiracy about the inner workings of the Rabbi. It starts with the personal hardships of Jake Cooper, who is more than meets the eye with a dark past behind him, and spreads to the string of diverse characters connecting back to Jake in mysterious ways. Old friends meet, and new ones are formed. With an intent killer on the loose and the moral and religious complications of the cast, everyone is linked.

While Jake Cooper is our protagonist, Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia features many diverse characters, adding variety and intrigue to the story. A Jew-centric cast with real and complex purpose deals with loss, divorce, and issues of love. Irv Segal candidly shows respect and care for the religion, focusing on the concepts of faith, the divide in modern Judaism between Orthodox and current beliefs, and other ideas. With an excellent central conflict, it shows a rapidly advancing tale with grey characters, complicated trials, and secrets slowly unveiled. The pacing takes time to set up and develop characters with clear intentions and aims. However, many words, phrases, and rituals are centered around Judaism, with the characters often discussing their faiths and beliefs. This might be initially difficult for those unaware of Judaism’s cultures and religions. Overall, it is a fantastic action thriller with a deep study into the Orthodox cultures of Jewish society. It is a mysterious tale in which you must be patient to allow the story to hit its stride, which it does remarkably well.

Alma Boucher

Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia is a mystery by Irv Segal. Jake Cooper, recently divorced from his wife, was on his way to his first Jewish singles event. Coming from an ultra-Orthodox community, this was Jake’s first step into the modern world. In turn, Mindy Stein had asked her husband Sender for a divorce. She had expected yelling and arguing, but Sender just nodded. This reaction surprised her, and she knew that something else would follow. An interesting discussion at the synagogue social hall caught Mindy’s ear. Mindy met Jake, and there was an immediate connection between them. When Mindy was arrested for murdering Sender, Jake decided that he would do everything in his power to prove her innocence. In the process, Jake uncovered secrets that the Jewish community had been hiding for years.

Irv Segal used his experiences living in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to write Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia. The plot was interesting and complicated, and I was intrigued from the first page. I never realized that the Jewish community followed the rules they grew up with so closely. It was interesting to learn more about them. There is a link to free bonus content that included a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words and phrases. It was informative and I could understand them better. The characters were outstanding and unusual. It is most intimidating that people in positions of authority can abuse power like this. I learned a lot from this story, and it was a pleasure to read.

Lucinda E Clarke

The words mafia and rabbi do not seem at all synonymous and it is for this reason that I chose Irv Segal’s novel. Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia is set in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community of Chicago. Apart from following the rigid customs throughout the year, it is also vitally important to keep up appearances, do no wrong, live a perfect life, and act as an example to those outside their faith. But all humans are frail, self-important, and ambitious whatever their background at birth. They seek power and a driving ambition to control the lives of others. This is what a certain rabbi was intent on doing, together with those who served him. They were determined to keep their followers in line, with whatever it takes and regardless of the catastrophic results.

Reading Secrets of the Rabbi’s Mafia by Irv Segal was a fascinating experience. I learned so much about the lives of believers in the Orthodox Jewish community. I was astounded at the long list of things that they can and cannot do and the restrictions this places on them. Jake Cooper is on the fringe of the more extreme followers, but like others, he is caught between two worlds. As a scholar of Jewish rules and rituals, he is well-placed to differentiate between religious and secular law. A lucky win with his friend means he can leave his job but he is then pitched into a fight for the woman he loves and a desperate struggle to save her children.

The lengths some leading members of the community were prepared to go to was astounding. Those who were chosen to uphold the law and set an example were those who desecrated it. With a well-thought-out plot, the story keeps moving, the descriptions are excellent. As a hero, Jake Cooper is a believable down-to-earth character. Apart from being a good read, the magic in this book was the insights into the strict Ultra-Orthodox community that I found fascinating. Born into this sect, the mental constraints and guilt affecting those who seek a less restrictive way of life provide much food for thought.

Asher Syed

Secrets of the Rabbi's Mafia by Irv Segal is a murder suspense novel revolving around a divorce in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community that gets pinned on the girlfriend of Jake Cooper, a scholar of Talmud law and former Ultra-Orthodox 'black-hatter'. The novel begins with Jake literally shaving away the last remnants of an Ultra-Orthodox life, later meeting a woman named Marsha at a Jewish singles event. The relationship fizzles out as Mindy Bloom, a former member of the Ultra-Orthodox who is getting divorced from her husband, breezes into Jake's life. After some growing pains, the two hit it off and Jake gives advice on how Mindy might get her children back legally from their father. That is, until Marsha ends up being the children's lawyer and Mindy's ex, Sender, is pushed to his death from the roof of Mindy's building, and Mindy is charged with his murder.

Someone once told me about a show in America called Amish Mafia, and it is one of those word pairings that have no business being together. Not even an Author Irv Segal steamrolls into my life with Secrets of the Rabbi's Mafia and I am once again terrified that everything I knew to be true in life was a complete lie. Segel can spin a tale that will certainly make you believe it, and you'll enjoy every second of it. The depth of the conspiracy is as exceptional as it is shocking from within a storyline where the characters and landscape are so intrinsically linked. Initially, the community that Segal escorts us into feels small and somewhat linear, only to show us that it is big and bad and really entertaining. Marsha is an absolute viper and a part of me feels a woman like that deserves all the best that she can sink her Louboutin stilettos into. Jake is a supremely nice guy who is painfully honest, so much so that he's willing to say he's not 'fully convinced' Mindy killed her husband, which means the part of him that thinks she may have is big. Mindy is authentic as a character and taught me something very important: do NOT mess around with a matchmaker. Very highly recommended.