||berkley prime crime
||December 4, 2007
Barnes & Noble.com
Roberta Isleib's home page
When Dr. Butterman's minister is charged with murder, she uncovers cutthroat church politics. It seems the "thou shalt not kill" has been qualified: "...unless thou art eliminating the competition."
The holidays have arrived in postcard-perfect Guilford, CT, but someone's taking the joy out of the season...
Psychologist/advice columnist Dr. Rebecca Butterman gets a call in the
middle of night from the minister at her church. He's in custody after going
to a fellow parishioner's home and finding her dead. The murdered
matron was the leader of a search committee charged with finding a new
assistant pastor after the previous assistant left in a rush. Rebecca
learns that the committee was divided--has someone tried to eliminate the
competition? Rebecca puts her analytical skills to work to do her own
Search--for a killer. All while resisting the urge to break the seventh
commandment with a very married detective, and praying she's not the next
the Cozy Library
A late-night phone call from her pastor drags psychologist/advice columnist Rebecca Butterman out of her bed on a cold, winter night. Reverend Wesley Sandifer’s frantic call to Dr. Butterman relates to the death of Lacy Bailes, chair of a committee searching for a new associate pastor at Shoreline Congregational Church. Rev. Sandifer asks Rebecca to take the victim’s place as head of the search committee – although his request doesn’t seem like an emergency that would necessitate calling someone after midnight.
Rebecca had helped Detective Jack Meigs solve the murder of her neighbor several months earlier and is, quite frankly, eager to partner with him again. Although he’s interested in knowing more about the ins and outs of the committee the victim headed, Detective Meigs not so subtly warns Rebecca away from other aspects of the investigation. Accustomed in her professional life to asking questions and listening to the answers, Dr. Butterman can’t help herself.
The holiday season is in full swing and Rebecca’s clients are relying on her more than ever. In addition to that already full plate, Dr. Butterman is on deadline for a holiday-related column, agonizing over decorating her Christmas tree, in a spat with her sister Janice, going on a blind date AND coping with a nasty cold and a twisted ankle.
Although the title doesn’t hint at the fact that Preaching to the Corpse is a holiday mystery, it definitely is! Rebecca Butterman is not a character whose home would be decorated ala Martha Stewart for the holidays, nor would she be busily baking Santa cookies. But Dr. Butterman, through her patients and advice column, addresses the emotional cloud that hangs over the holidays for many people.
All those insights, however, are bonuses. I most appreciate the top-notch writing, meticulous plotting – and a heroine who is perfectly imperfect – teetering between her feminist leanings and the desire for a big lug to take care of her. I’m eager for the seed of a sub-plot about Dr. Butterman’s long-estranged father to blossom in coming books.
By Diana. First published in the Cozy Library November 28, 2007.
The Mystery Reader
Advice columnist Rebecca Butterman, recovering, physically and mentally from being kidnapped earlier in the fall, is trying to get in the Christmas spirit at her church, Shoreline Congregational Church. Late one night, Rebecca is startled out of sleep by a phone call from Detective Meigs. The Reverend Wesley had been visiting parishioner Lacy Bailes and found the woman dead. The Reverend insists on speaking with Rebecca in the emergency room so Rebecca heads out into the cold and snow to see how she can help. When she arrives at the ER, Wesley is mostly out of it, but asks Rebecca to take Lacy’s place as the head of the committee looking to replace their assistant pastor.
Rebecca finds the request odd, especially under the circumstances, but agrees, especially when Meigs asks her to keep her ears open on the committee which might give him a clue as to who killed Lacy. Now Rebecca finds herself interviewing the last two candidates for assistant pastor as she tries to negotiate the festivities of the holiday season, tea with her niece, a blind date set up by her friend Angie, other church activities, the urge to reconnect with her long missing father, all the while juggling a thriving practice and writing her advice column, Dear Dr. Aster, for her online advice column.
Rebecca can’t imagine that Lacy’s murder has anything to do with the church, nor can she imagine one of her fellow congregants committing murder. Meigs isn’t too sure, and the more Rebecca looks into the events leading up to Lacy’s death, the more she suspects that some people have taken “love your neighbor” to extremes, while others have completely ignored that commandment.
Rebecca’s second mystery is even better than her first. Rebecca has made moves to start a new life after her divorce and is coming to terms with her mutual attraction to married Meigs. The two have some strong feelings toward each other, and Meigs was on the verge of filing for divorce (prior to meeting Rebecca) when he learned that his wife had Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now Meigs has promised to stand by Alice and fights his feelings toward Rebecca while she tries to take her own advice and give up on the hopelessness of the situation. Rebecca also faces old family ghosts as she tells her sister she wants to contact their absentee father, a decision her sister is not entirely pleased about.
Once again, Rebecca gets more involved in the investigation than she meant to, but she has a way about her that make people want to open up to her. Rebecca is very likable and tries to offer a sympathetic ear to all without driving herself crazy with other people’s problems. She is overcoming her bad marriage, her kidnapping in the fall, her feelings for Meigs and trying to reconcile her feelings about the father who abandoned her family when she and her sister were young, yet she keeps her good humor and grace.
The mystery is well laid out and easy to follow, and there are several paths readers can take to figure everything out. Preaching to the Corpse is a fun holiday mystery with a heroine who will easily win new fans and keep old fans well satisfied.
--Jennifer Monahan Winberry
Reviewed by Kathy Perschmann
This is the second in the insightful and interesting Advice Column mysteries (after Deadly Advice) by psychologist Roberta Isleib.
Dr. Rebecca Butterman has a failed marriage, a missing father, a mother who committed suicide, and a prickly relationship with her sister. She lives in Connecticut, and is a somewhat active member in the Shoreline Congregational Church, but she is still surprised when she gets a call in the middle of the night from her minister Reverend Sandifer. He is at the hospital with a suspiciously dead parishioner; he discovered the body and he is the main suspect. Attractive Detective Meigs, known from a previous case, is in charge of the investigation.
Rev. Sandifer begs Rebecca to replace Lacy Bailes on the search committee for a new Assistant Pastor. The two candidates are their intern Paul Cashman, and Rev. Ellen Dark, from another New England church–and the search committee has unusually strong views. There appears to be no discernable motive for Lacy’s poisoning, and Det. Meigs asks Rebecca to keep him in the loop about the search committee meetings.
When Paul Cashman, the intern, suffers a fall on the stairway to this basement office due to a greased step, and Rebecca falls down after him, he re-considers his request, but Rebecca has to know so she continues her investigation. Add to this mixture the stress of the Christmas season, Rebecca’s feeling for handsome Det. Meigs, despite his marriage to the terminally ill Alice; Rebecca’s desire to find her missing father much to the horror of her sister Janice; and the possible shot at Rebecca when she goes out to get her mail– and the plot is truly steeped in angst.
Isleib has laced the story with the advice columns that Rebecca writes as Dr. Aster for Bloom Magazine. Isleib has created in Dr. Rebecca Butterman a professional who cares and who is better at her job for her own flaws and failings. Isleib characterizes a mystery plot as being similar to long-term psychotherapy: you look at the past, search for clues, and unravel threads of a story.
Armchair Interviews says: Our advice—pick up this good read.
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