Friday, January 1, 2016


Roberta Isleib's Preaching to the Corpse could have been named Murder in the Search Committee.

During the Christmas season, someone kills the chairwoman of the Madison, Connecticut, First Congregational Church assistant pastor search committee.

Church member Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a psychologist and part-time advice columnist, investigates the murder. She also inherits the chairmanship of the committee.

The ins and outs of church life abound. Half the committee wants one person. The other half wants the other. The present minister weighs in on his choice.

Meanwhile Dr. Butterman has personal problems. She is partially estranged from her sister. She admits her infatuation for the investigating officer (whose wife is dying of ALS).  And she struggles with personal doubts as she delves into the secrets of the minister and the congregation.

For me, Preaching to the Corpse was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the glimpse into small church politics, something I know well. But I disliked the narrator's "mind chatter," her torturous projections about her life and the crime.

Along the way, Dr. Butterman made terrible blunders. She broke the law, she put herself in danger, and she shared the confidential workings of the committee with her policeman friend.

Preaching to the Corpse is an event-driven story. Circumstances reveal the killer. The investigation pushes things along.

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