“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
Mo Willems, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review: Asking for Murder by Roberta Isleib


Asking For Murder
Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN: 978-0-425-22331-4

“People who aren’t in our profession don’t like to hear that their shrinks might have these thoughts – especially about them.”

In “Asking For Murder,” Roberta Isleib crosses a line or two: she makes therapists sound human, and she reveals that “shrinks” don’t always have all the answers. I’m all for crossing lines, especially when doing so open doors into formerly private worlds and aids in understanding.

Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a clinical psychologist, finds her best friend who happens to be a social worker specializing in sand therapy beaten and close to death in her own home. Rebecca, as a sideline to her therapy, has already come to the local police agency’s attention as an amateur private detective without credentials. To their consternation, and while raising eyebrows from the rest of the local therapy world, she refuses to let the police handle the case alone. Oh, it should be mentioned that Rebecca is also secretly an advice columnist.

In a story full of twists, including the therapist dealing with her own family-related issues and failing relationships, Rebecca is not what “people who aren’t in our profession” would expect from a clinical psychologist. She is human – fallibly and laughingly human while jumping to conclusions, searching everywhere she looks for possible suspects, admitting she doesn’t have a clue about what a sand scene could mean or even what sand therapy is all about, and ignoring advice she would give clients when it comes to her own affairs of the heart. She is a delightful character, full of energy and ambition with a charming mix of arrogance and insecurity, and leads the search for a killer through routes we can’t guess, up until the time of revelation.

In the midst of the story, we get to peak into the world of a therapist, inclusive of professional conundrums and defined disorders. We also get a look at a therapy technique the public has often never heard of: sand tray. While I would have liked to see the definitions of sandplay versus sand tray more differentiated, I enjoyed Isleib’s inclusion of sand tray and her way of handling this branch of the art therapies.

An admission: I don’t read mysteries. However, if more were like this one, I would be searching them out. “Asking For Murder” does open a door – to a large audience, including those in the psychology field, those not in the field who may want a closer look, to romance readers interested in something different, to readers looking for a light weekend or beach read, and to anyone who enjoys spunky fallible female lead characters. If you don’t read mystery, try it anyway. I finished the novel thinking I would have to go back and catch up on more of Dr. Butterman’s adventures in Isleib’s Advice Column Mysteries.

LK Hunsaker
Network Coordinator, Sandplay Voices
Mainstream Romance Novelist: www.lkhunsaker.com