09 December 2012

The Woo-Woo Farm

by Leigh Lundin

save your life

trim your tree

kangaroo down

get you sober

help leave him

extend vacation
This past week, I've been reading Elizabeth Zelvin's Death Will Save Your Life, one of her Bruce Kohler Death Will… series. Not having read Elizabeth before, I wasn't prepared for the fast, snappy, almost furiously funny story.

Let me put it this way— If you're aware the three main recurring characters– best friends– are either recovering alcoholics or co-dependents and you know the author is a very serious top flight New York psychotherapist, those preconceptions may set you up for, well, sober expectations. And you'd be wrong.

Published by booksBnimble, the feel is witty with an ambience between cosy and chick-lit, at least if the latter allowed male main characters. Originally intended to be a novel, the author slimmed, trimmed, and streamlined the tale to novella length, enhancing its bright and light drollery.

The story takes place in what New Yorkers call 'the country', meaning upstate at a new age retreat named the Aquarius Institute but referred to by the cynical as the Woo-Woo Farm. Yep, I side with the cynical.
Crystal Mary

We interrupt this programming with an aside. An acquaintance, Crystal Mary, would fit in well with the farm. To outsiders, she's a strident psychic feminist lesbian, a Premie, a believer in all things paranormal, and a psychosomatic practitioner of new-age healing. Friends worry when she follows guru Prem Rawat to India and Australia without seeing the sights and that she spends too much on phony gadgets to ward off nasal scoliosis and electrical appliance radiation burns. Privately, she enjoys art, collects beautiful healing crystals, and confesses lesbianism isn't sealed in stone. Mary would fit right in the Woo-Woo Farm.

Underlying the humor, the author's command of dialogue is superb, possibly a listening skill developed in her psychotherapist profession. Zelvin's dialogue is at its best when she does banter. I especially enjoy the patter between the main characters.

And those protagonists are fun. Bruce prays the vegetarians haven't screwed up breakfast and his friends advise him to take the line to the right– the left one is all veggie. Just my kind of people.

Bruce's friend Barbara talks a mile-a-minute while driving, oblivious to the outside world. She seems to glide among other characters like an Indian scout through a forest. She makes us smile when she criticizes another woman for her 'thin shiksa thighs'. Husband Jimmy is her anchor in a positive sense.

The book slips in a wide variety of conversational detours from flowers and foods to subtle references of kinkiness. And for the romance-minded, the story, er, lays a foundation for that too.

The author manages to murder two victims, both with remarkably unpleasant dispositions. This follows the tradition of cosies where we don't much mind liquidating odious characters. If it weren't that good people could be falsely indicted, we might be willing to give the murderer a pass.

The detective on the case, while not a bad guy, isn't exactly a fine fellow either. Of course being a good guy isn't his job, but he gets under the skins of our three intrepid sleuths.

There are a raft of suspects– literally. The baddie– well, can't tell you that except to say you wouldn't want to swim with this perpetrator.

I've offered Elizabeth my own title in the series: Death Will Get You Laid (to Rest) That oughta sell!

Rating: lots of stars. When you're up for a light, fast and funny read, pick up Death Will Save Your Life by Elizabeth Zelvin. It will make your day.

4 comments:

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Aw shucks, Leigh. Thanks a million for your kind words! I could do snappy dialogue long before I became a therapist. What I learned from being a shrink is how to shut up once in a while. ;) So if people wonder if Barbara is based on me, there's one big difference for ya.

Eve Fisher said...

I love your dialog, Elizabeth - and thanks for the update on a new one of her works, Leigh.

Leigh Lundin said...

You're welcome, Eve and Elizabeth. It was a pleasure and a fun read.

Dixon Hill said...

Great review, Leigh. And, a book I've gotta get -- soon!