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Margolis, Sasha — The Tsimbalist

What a charming, delightful tale, except for the part when because of a stubborn cow, a young Russian aristocrat is found murdered in the lake. This happens in 1871, and it’s close to the home of Koppel, who is recently widowed and struggling to marry off his eldest daughter and raise the rest of his children. Avrom, a barber and musician, moves back and forth between the worlds of the Russians and Jews in and around the town of Balativke. “At once a thrilling whodunnit, a maddening romance, and a satisfying plunge into history, The Tsimbalist is a tale of Jews and Russians, depicting their complicated friendships, their dangerous enmities, and their illicit loves, all seen through the eyes of Avrom, a barber, musician, all-around mensch, and born detective.” With the police unable to unravel the mystery of the aristocrat’s murder, and blame falling upon Koppel amid a rising tide of anti-Jewish feeling, a desperate Avrom attempts to prevent disaster for his community by searching out the truth himself. Learning as much about the people he lives among as he does about the slain Arkady Olegovich Efimovski, Avrom finds that few are who they seem. But could one of his neighbors really be a murderer?”

Author Sasha Margolis is a versatile performer and classical violinist who also fiddles, sings, acts, and writes. Praised by the Washington Post as a violinist for his “incisive, vibrato-rich tone,” Margolis is well-versed in classical, klezmer, new, early, and jazz music, and has performed in Italy, Japan, and throughout the U.S. He is a founding member of the ensemble Big Galut(e), in which his roles include singing, fiddling, standup comedy, composing and arranging. As an actor, he appeared in Spoleto Festival USA’s production of Mauricio Kagel’s theater piece Trahison Orale, as Shakespeare’s Shylock on CBS Sunday Morning, and as a violinist on ABC’s Lost. His short story “The Fallen Cone” received a commendation from the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Competition. This story and others, as well as thoughts on 19th-century shtetl life, may be found at

I enjoyed this brief visit to the old country while drinking a glassele tea with two cubes of sugar. If only Avrom the Tsimbalist could solve more murders!

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