Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Asking for Murder by Roberta Isleib

Like yesterday's book, Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly, Roberta Isleib's third Advice Column Mystery, Asking for Murder, has a gorgeous, appropriate cover. This is another Berkley Prime Crime book, with a wonderful illustrator. Brandon Dorman did this one, and it fits the book.

I have a harder time with Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a clinical psychologist and advice columnist. However, I think the issues are just mine. In Asking for Murder, Rebeccaa's best friend misses their luncheon date, doesn't show up at her office, doesn't call, so Rebecca checks her home. That's where she finds Annabelle, in her bedroom, so badly beaten that by the time she's taken to the hospital, she's in a coma.

Was it Annabelle's work as a social worker that led to her beating? Was it something to do with her family, more dysfunctional that Rebeccaa knew? Or, was it a robbery gone bad? Rebeccaa is determined to find the answers since the police seem to consider the case solved.

Now, Rebeccaa has had a rough year, with two murders and a kidnapping. And, it would be natural for anyone to fall apart, finding their best friend like that. But, Rebecca seems to go overboard, for a psychologist. She takes it out on too many people, from other doctors, to the hospital staff, to her boyfriend, Bob. I tend to agree with her assessment of Bob's reaction. "Cheerful Bob with his functional family, on the other hand, takes everything in stride, and he interprets any emotional blip from me as a potential overreaction, if not a sign of unfolding hysterics." She was out of control in the hospital, when they wouldn't let her see Annabelle. (Surely a psychologist understands HIPAA.) She reminds herself not to be a drama queen, but she is. And, she acts childish when it comes to her personal relationships, falling for a married cop with a sick wife, and then driving by his house when he's not at work. This is a thirty-something psychologist, for pete's sake.

I have to give Rebeccaa credit for stepping in to try to help her friend, when no one else seemed to be there for her. The police closed the case, thinking it was a robbery gone bad. Rebecca had her doubts, and she continued to poke around, antagonizing everyone from Annabelle's boyfriend to Rebeccaa's boyfriend, and her ex-husband. But, she took on her friend's clients, meeting with those she could, in order to help Annabelle. She's a loyal friend, although I have my doubts as to her ability as a psychologist and advice columnist. In fact, the advice column just feels as if it's a hobby device for the cozy mystery.

Now, I'm going to be very honest, and say I think this might be just my dislike of Rebecca's behavior that frustrates me when I read these books. Other well-respected authors and reviewers have been quite complimentary about this series. Blurbs from Susan Wittig Albert, Armchair Interviews and Gumshoe Reviews refer to Rebecca as smart, sympathetic, and a professional who cares. Try, Asking for Murder yourself. It's your opinion that counts.

Roberta Isleib's website is

Asking for Murder by Roberta Isleib. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425223314(paperback), 239p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

If I'm reading this right, Roberta is the main character and is also the name of the author? Interesting!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

Elizabeth, I really owe you some thanks. The name of the character is Rebecca. I had to go back and change the name in the entire review. I think I was so frustrated with the character that I called her Roberta in whole thing. Thanks!

Clea Simon said...

Lesa - your candor and honesty do you credit as a reviewer. We don't all like everything, but reading your reviews I can always get a sense of what a book is like (and whether I would like it). Thanks!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I second Clea....I appreciate hearing about both the good and bad points of a book.

And Lesa...I'm glad to hear the protag's name wasn't the same as the author's! I was wondering what to think about an author who'd do that!


Maria said...

I thought that this book might have the same artist as the Murder, Mayhem one!!! That would have been my guess!

Thanks for pointing out the artist in this and the one below. You're right--they both have gorgeous covers.

Lesa said...


Thank you. It's never easy to review a book (as you know!), when you yourself have problems with it, knowing others might like it. But, I do try to be fair to the author, and the reader. Thank you for noting that. I really appreciate it!

Lesa said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, again, for pointing out the problem this morning. The names are so close, that I made that mistake. I'm glad you caught that!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Maria. They both were so attractive, and, so related to the book, that I thought I'd mention the artist. Those book covers do reach out and grab you.

Kris said...

I agree - wonderful cover art.

This is a series that has been on my wish list for awhile, it will be interested to see what I think of the character if I eventually end up reading the first one.

Lesa said...

I will be interested to see what you think of the series. As I said, many people have given it very good reviews.