Monday, April 14, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth Zelvin

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth Zelvin. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth ZelvinBuy from

Death Will Get You Sober by
A Bruce Kohler Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37589-1 (0312375891)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37589-8 (9780312375898)
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): On Christmas Day, Bruce Kohler wakes up in detox on the Bowery in New York City. He knows it’s time to change his life, but how can he stay sober without dying of boredom?

When homeless alcoholics start to die unexpectedly, Bruce is surprised to find he cares enough to want to find out why. Most of them had been down and out for many years, but Bruce’s friend Guff was different: a cynical aristocrat with a trust fund and some secrets.

Two old friends give Bruce a second chance and agree to help him with his investigation: his best friend, Jimmy, a computer genius and history buff who’s been in AA for years, and Jimmy’s girlfriend Barbara, a counselor who sometimes crosses the line between helping and codependency.

Barbara works a night shift at the detox and confronts a counselor who might still be dealing drugs. Bruce gets a job temping for Guff’s arrogant nephew. Between the three of them, suspects start piling up. The trail leads back to the detox. Or does it? 

Review: Elizabeth Zelvin's first full-length mystery Death Will Get You Sober features amateur sleuth Bruce Kohler, an alcoholic struggling to stay sober, a character first introduced by the author in the short story Death Will Clean Your Closet.

Bruce wakes up in detox on Christmas Day, not surprised he's there but not thrilled about it either. His roommate is Godfrey Brandon Kettleworth III, Guff for short. Guff's not the stereotypical down-and-outer resident of the ward; he has a trust fund and family connections. When Guff suddenly dies one night, Bruce is suspicious. Another alcoholic had died just a day earlier, not in a similar fashion, but still, it was too coincidental. Bruce begins an informal investigation into Guff's background and finds no shortage of people who might want him dead. Maybe his death was just a coincidence. But then another alcoholic dies, diverting Bruce's attention back to the detox ward. If Bruce can stay sober, he might just figure out what's going on.

Death Will Get You Sober is one of those appealing mysteries that starts strong then just sort of meanders along never really regaining the strength of its opening chapters. To be sure, the book has much going for it. The characters and setting are original and deftly drawn, and the wryly written narrative is entertaining. The author takes great care in portraying the environment in which these characters exist as an essential element of the story without editorial or moral judgment as to why they are there. In contrast to this, the plot seems almost clumsy with too many suspects (and consequently too many red herrings) and a convoluted pathway to its somewhat predictable conclusion.

Now that Death Will Get You Sober has properly established the characters and setting for what promises to be a most entertaining mystery series, it is hoped that future books will provide a more compelling story in which they can participate.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing an ARC of Death Will Get You Sober for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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