Saturday, January 5, 2008

Prayer For The Dying

Cozy mysteries are my comfort food. A really good one is always particularly tasty and I'll devour it in record time. Roberta Isleib's second Advice Column mystery, Preaching To The Corpse, is just such a book. It's light, lively, and such a fast read I zipped through it in 24 hours.

Dr. Rebecca Butterman is a psychologist who moonlights as an advice columnist for her local New England newspaper. She's happily asleep one night when she gets a phone call from a local detective. Her church's minister, Reverend Wesley, found one of his parishioners, Lacy Bailes, dead in her condo and called the police. The hospital ER doctor strongly suspects Lacy was poisoned, and naturally the cops are looking pretty hard at the good reverend. However he is refusing to say one word until Rebecca gets her butt down to the hospital. She does, and is shocked when all the man wants from her is her solemn promise to take over Lacy's position as chair of the assistant pastor search committee. Rebecca thinks it bizarre that that's what Wesley is so freaked out about (hello? murder?!), and agrees - mainly because handsome Detective Meigs thinks to use her as his eyes and ears inside the church.

As one would expect in a cozy mystery, things soon get complicated. Wesley is behaving strangely, then a bizarre accident during a church supper adds some drama. Who would want to kill Lacy and why? Does it have anything to do with the search committee? And can Rebecca figure it all out while surviving the holidays, a head cold, and an inappropriate crush on Meigs?

This is a charming, fast read. Rebecca is a smart woman, albeit still adjusting to life as a single after a divorce she's still coping with. The church back drop provides plenty of suspects and politics to keep the proceedings moving, although readers shouldn't think church setting = inspirational read. The violence level is low, with the murder happening off stage, but there is no preaching religious discussion, and Detective Meigs drops the F-bomb during an argument with Rebecca (they were both a tad upset). Still, this is my favorite kind of story - one I would easily recommend across multiple demographics. I slipped right into the story, and the author provides plenty of back story to refresh fans of the first book and newcomers alike. Also, this back story lays a foundation for future story lines in the series. Between Rebecca's divorce and her family baggage there's oodles of possibilities.

My one quibble is that I wish the author would have laid out a few more bread crumbs. There's a little too much guess work for a large chunk of the novel, and I really had no idea for the longest time where the mystery was going to lead. It's good that I didn't solve the thing before the end, but a few tantalizing teasers would have spiced up the proceedings a bit.

All in all though, this was a classic comfort read. If you're a fan of the lighter cozy mysteries, this one should be right up your alley.

Final Grade = B


ephramyfan said...

Is there a good romance level in this one? It sounds interesting, but I always end up reading a book like this and then getting too involved in the possible romantic elements without a conclusion to them lol. Do you suggest it to us avid romance readers?

PS: This is Alie, I'm just signing in through my Live Journal.

Wendy said...

Alie: The romantic elements are really light in this book. Rebecca is attracted to the police detective, but he's married and his wife has Lou Gerhig's disease. Her ex-husband shows up at the very end of the novel, and you can just tell there's still some unresolved "stuff" there. Oh, and her best friend fixes her up with a blind date. So there's romantic complications aplenty - but no hard core romance. By the end I got the feeling that she was going to let go of her "crush" on the cop - but the ex and the blind date aren't resolved in any manner.

This is a good read - but if you're looking for a firm romantic storyline, this probably isn't going to satisfy you on that front. It's strictly a cozy mystery, and not light romantic suspense.....

ephramyfan said...

Thanks so much for letting me know, Wendy! I get so frustrated when things don't go my way romance wise in a book lol. If I can't control them in my real life I like to control them in fiction ;)