Independent Book Review
Humor, weirdness, and fun abound in this cozy crime with a side of woo-woo.
When therapist David Unger is approached by a former acquaintance for help, he tries to keep an open mind. The Santa Monica Whole Life Expo is on, and his friend feels bad juju in the air. But, as unscientific as it is, David is a big proponent of the “if you believe something to be true, it’s true for you” school of thought, so he agrees to keep an eye on things.
This is easier said than done, especially when a high-maintenance client turns out to be following him and a murderer has targeted the aisle that David’s friend is in. With a little help from the eccentric stall-owners, David may just be able to balance his chakras, catch a date with the love doctor, and maybe even stop a killer.
A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder is the ninth book in David Unger’s Lesson In series. This quirky cozy mystery novel has some links to the previous ones in the series but can be read as a standalone. It’s set in 1980s Santa Monica, which adds a little zing to an already dynamic plot.
This set-up is perfect for the slightly oddball cozy crime. Therapist by occupation, sleuth by chance is a combination I didn’t know I needed until now. It makes for so many fantastic possibilities, many of them hilarious. As a sleuth, David is pretty dismal. As a therapist, he’s better. As a main character, though? He’s a prize. His inquisitive, open-minded approach to different ideas, people, and situations is as endearing as his bumbling incompetence is entertaining.
A sense of fun permeates these pages. From the start, the story plays with narrative convention, foreshadowing, and voice to deliver a novel steeped in self-referential humor. Quirky supporting characters only add to the charm. From the duo of escaped alien abductees, to the quartet of tantric-sex teachers, to the love doctor, there’s a cast of increasingly eccentric players who all could have had a hand in the murders.
While I love the setting, characters, and atmosphere of the novel, it’s placed a little too far from the action to be completely satisfying. The murders take place away from the main character; he doesn’t see any of the bodies. Most of the time he only finds out about the murder from an exterior source like the news or another character. As such, it’s hard to feel much build-up to that storyline.
The characters are a blast to spend time with, the 80s setting has nostalgic charm, and the humor completes the package. Fans of cozy mysteries with a self-aware twist will enjoy Lessons in Woo-Woo and Murder.
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen