Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My Mother, the Detective: The Complete Mom Short Stories: James Yaffe


I had surgery yesterday; it wasn't very serious and went well. However, my chair in front of my laptop is the only place I can sit comfortably without pain, so I am taking advantage of that to write this short post.


The eight short stories in My Mother, the Detective were originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, between 1952 and 1968. In each story, Dave, a detective in the New York Homicide Squad, and his wife Shirley visit his mother and they discuss one of his cases over dinner. She asks some pertinent questions and solves the case, and he is afraid that his coworkers are going to find out that his success rate with cases is due to his mother's help.

That sounds like a silly premise, but it certainly worked for me. The stories are light and fun. Dave's mother is like a Jewish Miss Marple, using her experiences with people in her neighborhood to draw connections that solve the crimes. She is a very entertaining armchair detective. My favorite stories in the book are the last two: "Mom and the Haunted Mink" and "Mom Remembers."

James Yaffe is a new author to me. He recently came to my attention at Clothes in Books, where Moira focused on the story titled "Mom Sings an Aria."

Yaffe was a very interesting man, who wrote both non-fiction and fiction. Between 1988 and 1992 he wrote four novels about Dave's Mom. I look forward to trying one of those. See these posts to learn more about James Yaffe:


My copy of My Mother, the Detective was published by Crippen and Landru in 1997. Twenty years later, they published an enlarged edition with one extra story, “Mom Lights a Candle,” written in 2002.


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Publisher:   Crippen and Landru, 1997
Length:      174 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      New York City
Genre:       Short stories
Source:      I purchased my copy.

23 comments:

  1. I hope you recover from your surgery quickly, Tracy. Take care.

    One of the aspects of the Miss Marple books I really love is the way she talks about the people in her village in respect of the crimes she's trying to solve. So I can quite understand why you enjoyed this book.

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    1. Thanks, Cath. I can see improvement already. Although the stories were formulaic in one sense, there were changes over time in the characters and the depth of the stories.

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  2. Here's hoping your pain goes away soon, Tracy. Will be thinking about you. Like Cath, this reminds me a bit of Miss Marple. Sounds good!

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    1. Me, too, Kay. The stories were fun to read.

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    1. Thanks, Patti. It is hard to prepare for the aftermath of surgery.

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  4. I hope you heal up quickly, Tracy. Glad to hear your surgery went well. I have always liked James Yaffe's work a lot, so it's good to know you enjoyed this collection. Your post reminds me that it's been too long since I visited his stories.

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    1. I am looking forward to feeling much better, Margot, including mentally. I look forward to finding something else by Yaffe to read.

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  5. I hope you recover quickly from your surgery, Tracy. I too recently had minor surgery (a stent this time) and the next day found that, contrary to expectations, sitting upright at my desk was the most comfortable place to be.

    The Yaffe book looks lotsa fun. I've always liked the premise of short stories in which the crimes are solved during conversations among or including outsiders, and these sound to be fine examples.

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    1. I was surprised about that myself, John.

      I would not have thought Yaffe's stories would be that appealing to me, but I was glad I gave them a chance.

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  6. I hope you are back to normal soon, Tracy. I'll certainly look out for Yaffe's books, I like the idea of a Jewish Miss Marple.

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    1. Thanks, Katrina. Yes, Dave's mom was a very good concept for short stories.

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  7. I loved these stories...Happy they helped you during this trying time.

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    1. I am surprised I did not discover these stories sooner, Gram. And you are right, this is the perfect time.

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  8. Yikes and yay--the last for the "not very serious" and "went well," Tracy. And the pain will go away! I like the idea of the Jewish mother detective, and the cover is fabulous. I shall give Mr. Jaffe a looksee!

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    1. The pain is much better now, Matthew. I do recommend the Mom detective stories.

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  9. Hope you are feeling well Tracy, look after yourself.
    And so glad you liked these stories as much as I did.

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    1. Thanks, Moira. I have my ups and downs but things get better every day. These are wonderful stories.

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  10. FINALLY! I knew I had this, but darned if I could find it. After searching the paperback shelves, including the "J" section in case my version was published with the spelling as Jaffe, I saw in my catalog it was a hardcover. I would have sworn I had a collection of her mom stories in a thick trade paper. But no, it's this one. Which I haven't read. I did, however, find a paperback novel featuring Mom and Dave, now located in Mesa Grande, CO, titled A Nice Murder for Mom. (Worldwide, 1960, original copyright 1988). So, yes I have the C&L collection and that novel.

    Mine is the hardback, signed, numbered (I have # 36). I also have a 16-page pamphlet in the back with a extra story, "Mom Lights A Candle" which was sent as a "gift for friends of the C&L publishers" which may or may not have come with the book, or may have been sent separately as I was a subscriber at that time.
    Now I'm motivated to read the stories, and probably, the novel, so once again you have my thanks. I hope you are recovered by now!

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    1. I am much better, Rick. Thanks. Will be going back to work sometime this week.

      How lucky you are to have a hardback numbered edition of this book and a copy of the extra story. I do like the C&L short story collections but have only been buying them here and there for a few years so there are many I have missed.

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  11. Glad to hear that you are feeling better, Tracy, and I hope that's continued. The Mom stories were an ideal choice - real comfort reading!

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    1. Thanks, Christine. I am back and work today (and sort of regretting it). I remember Moira mentioning that you had recommended the Mom stories to her.

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  12. About a month behind the times, hope you are feeling much better now. Re the book, probably one I can pass on.

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