The Cost of Liv­ing and Oth­er Mysteries

September 1, 2021

The book presents through a sequen­tial series of three novel­las that take place in the ear­ly 1970’s my pri­vate detec­tive hero, Frank Wolf, an ortho­dox Jew who, before the Holo­caust, was a pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy at a Vien­na uni­ver­si­ty. Frank, along with his Wat­son-like side­kick Joel Gor­don (who is also Frank’s grand­son) solve, in the anchor sto­ry, The Cost of Liv­ing, the mur­der of a kosher butch­er in Boro Park; in A Lit­tle Boy is Miss­ing, they solve the dis­ap­pear­ance of an eight-year old Hasidic boy in Williams­burg; in The Dorm Mur­der Frank and Joel solve the killing of a high school stu­dent in
a yeshi­va high school dor­mi­to­ry in Wash­ing­ton Heights.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Saul Golubcow

  1. Joel Gor­don tells us that his grand­fa­ther, Frank Wolf, was not your usu­al pri­vate eye.” Is Joel right? If yes, How so?

  2. Frank Wolf suf­fered great­ly dur­ing the Holo­caust. What per­son­al fac­tors may have helped him to endure in the Unit­ed States and make a new life as a pri­vate detective?

  3. Does it make sense to you that Frank Wolf found nat­ur­al affini­ties among his phi­los­o­phy train­ing, Judaism, and pri­vate detec­tive profession?

  4. What do you under­stand when Frank tells his fam­i­ly, My cas­es are very sad with lit­tle dif­fer­ence between who may be a vic­tim and who a victimizer?”

  5. What goes into what Frank Wolf calls crit­i­cal think­ing?” What gets in the way?

  6. As A Lit­tle Boy is Miss­ing” begins, Frank Wolf is fac­ing resent­ment by some parts of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty for solv­ing the Joe Stein mur­der, thus cost­ing his wid­ow the loss of life insur­ance ben­e­fits. How do you feel about this antagonism?

  7. How would you describe Joel’s rela­tion­ship with his grandfather?

  8. Does Joel change over the course of the three mys­ter­ies? If so, how?

  9. Frank tells Joel that per­haps being a good attor­ney is sim­i­lar to being a good detec­tive as each requires a scour­ing, exam­i­na­tion, and expla­na­tion of the facts.” What do you think of this comparison?

  10. Joel doesn’t like Mrs. Wachter. Why? Are you able to sep­a­rate your thoughts about Mrs. Wachter from Joel’s?

  11. How does Frank’s under­stand­ing of the Yale mot­to Urim V’Tummim” trans­late into his under­stand­ing of how good and bad exist ion the world?

  12. In all three mys­ter­ies, how might the cost of liv­ing” be defined?