Midwest Book Review
Murder mystery readers are in for a treat with A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder, which joins others in the "Lessons" series exploring psychotherapist David Unger's probes into murky matters of the mind.
Here, several therapy clients have paid for him to work at the Whole Life Expo, a bastion of self-care, healing, and new age exhibits. David is more than the usual therapist, sporting a special brand of training and psychic expertise that enhances his problem-solving abilities. But, is this enough to tackle bigger pictures when two tantric sex practitioners and a chiropractor suddenly collapse and die in an environment where paranormal influences abound? Maybe.
David is not an inherent believer in special abilities, even though he keeps being drawn into unbelievable circumstances where he's forced to exhibit extraordinary powers of deduction to solve cases. In fact, he doesn't "...participate in a lot of “otherworldly, self-enhancing, spiritually awakening” discussions. I don’t even know if I’ve had any of those experiences, but perhaps I have." He "might buy a few shares in the woo-woo world, but I wouldn’t be a big investor." The only reason he's at the expo is because he has a job to do.
The job turns out to be an immersive experience that carries David far further into this world than he ever expected, augmenting his psychological training with a sleuth's eye for trouble.
Did UFOs commit murder? Can he foresee the future? Or does the trouble stem from pure psychological complexity which David is well-trained to handle?
Dr. David Unger provides an unsettlingly realistic murder story that is backed by his professional expertise in psychology and a first-person protagonist that might mirror the author's own personality and approach to life. These elements create an especially engrossing, believable milieu that brings the character and the new age world of psychic involvements to life as he confronts death.
Especially well-done are references to the psychotherapy techniques that come in handy in other problem-solving situations: "In A Lesson in Cowboys and Murder, I used a therapeutic technique called doubling, where I stood behind the suspects and said out loud what I thought they would be saying if they weren’t holding it in. It can move things along."
As fortune teller Madame Vadama becomes a focal point, readers will be drawn not only by the new age environment and murder, but Dr. Unger's own astute assessment of personalities and possibilities.
The dovetailing of murder and mind probe is particularly well done, creating a compelling story as astute in its psychological complexity as it is in its portrait of sleuthing as Dr. Unger confronts good and evil in the healing world and faces romantic possibilities in the process.
Libraries and readers seeking a powerful tale that comes across as realistically compelling will find A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder alternatively funny, thought-provoking, and filled with satisfyingly surprising twists and turns.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer