You ask, What? That broken piece of matzah we hide in a napkin during the Seder to keep the kids awake long enough to go hunt for it?  This is what the big mystery is about?

I’ve used this as my (latest) working title, because my protagonist, Lily, gives her quest for the looted Seder plate a code name.  Lily is no Nancy Drew, VI Warshawski, or Aimée Leduc; she’s not a private investigator (either pro or amateur) or policewoman, just an ordinary Manhattan person who instigates a search over three continents when the missing object is something stolen from her family, Arguably, as a journalist she’s armed with skills applicable to this search.  And no shrinking violet is our Lily.  In fact, “Uncle,” Nachman Tanski, thinks codenaming it is way too cavalier for the seriousness of tracking old Nazis.  “This is not child’s play, like hunting for the Afikomen,” he says.

Secrets of the Afikomen is my fifth working title since I started to write the book.  In order they’ve been The Collector, Treasures & Values, Herbs Bitter & Sweet, and Return.  Here’s how I’ve traversed this part of the journey, and why:

The Collector: I was thinking Daniel Silva.  Most of his titles: The with Some Oblique Soubriquet: The Assassin, The Messenger, The Defector.  But I meant The Collector to refer to the Nachman Tanski character; in my early iterations of the book, he was a more influential player.  Besides, The Collector has been done and done in books and movies (including a new one, I think, but I still remember the Terrence Stamp/Samantha Eggar version).  However, The Collector lives! It’s still my computer file name for everything related to the book.

Treasures & Values harks to Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons thinking.  I’ve never read it and haven’t seen the movie (I only resorted to “reading” The Da Vinci Code on CD while recovering from a detached retina).  Dismissed early by prospective agent pitches.

Herbs Bitter & Sweet: Lily’s looking for a Seder plate.  Bitter herbs (maror) play a big role in the Seder ritual: usually, we use horseradish to depict the bitterness of life for the Hebrews under Pharoah, plus a bitter green vegetable and salt water to guarantee that we don’t forget that we were slaves.  Sweet—Lily’s story is not all bitter.  One agent thought this sounded like a book about organic food.  (Now I’m thinking it’s a potential title for a new Passover cookbook?)

Return: I love Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Saturday.  There is plenty of RETURN symbolism in the story, including the name of character Eliezer Ben Shuvah (Ben Shuvah in Hebrew meaning “son of return.”)  Pooh-poohed by another agent, who actually thought Herbs Bitter & Sweet wasn’t so bad.  (And you were wondering why this has been such a “trip”?)  Also, my developmental editor, Alan Rinzler, (www.alanrinzler.com) nixed it, too, and helped me select Secrets of the Afikomen from a list of possibilities.

If a book deal is in my future, it will be named whatever the publisher wants.

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