Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Preaching to the Corpse - Roberta Isleib

Preaching to the Corpse
An Advice Column Mystery
Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime


Clinical psychologist Rebecca Butterman knows that a phone call at midnight rarely signals a happy event. This time, it’s Detective Megis, calling to ask her to come to the hospital. Rev. Wesley Sandifer found church member Lacy Bailes unconscious and had her taken to the ER. Now Lacy is dead, the circumstances are suspicious, and Wesley won’t talk to anyone but Rebecca. But when Rebecca arrives, Wesley’s main concern seems to be that Rebecca takes Lacy’s place on the selection committee for a new assistant pastor. It could be the shock, or the sedatives, but it seems odd.

Days later, with Lacy’s death under investigation and Wesley still under the care of doctors, Yale Divinity School intern Paul Cashman is shouldering more responsibility. During a church supper, he takes a fall down a flight of stairs that were liberally and deliberately greased with shortening. It could be a coincidence, but Paul is Wesley’s choice for new assistant pastor. The other candidate, a female pastor from out of state, is strongly championed by other members of the committee. It’s clear that someone is deadly serious about who gets the job.

Last seen in DEADLY ADVICE, Rebecca Butterman retains her warmth and charm as a character. She understands what makes people tick, but wisely keeps her own counsel, more often than not. She realizes that she’s been thrown into a very contentious selection process, and attempts to calm the waters without taking sides. Unfortunately, unless you are an active member of a small New England church, the politics and minutiae of selecting a new assistant pastor is not inherently interesting. The story works best when Rebecca is using her skills to gather information and answering questions in her syndicated advice column.

Rating: 6 ½
November 2007ISBN# 978-0-425-21837-2 (paperback)


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