It’s almost here!
Lesson Plan for Murder will be released November 21st!

Diane Donovan’s review will appear in the November issue of the Midwest Book Review. The text of her review is below:
Lesson Plan for Murder: A Master Class Mystery
Lori Robbins
Barking Rain Press
Trade Paperback: 1941295541, $14.99
eBook: 194129555X, $5.99

What are the connections between psychopathic behaviors and teachers? Lesson Plan for Murder explores this and other facets of an English teacher’s sudden demise with a story line that is hard-hitting from its first sentences: “If you wish to inflict the kind of pain that festers forever, consult an English teacher. They’re easier to find than psychopaths, and they understand how to make people suffer. I speak from experience. Ten years of teaching English has taught me that emotional torture delivers slings and arrows that linger long after the initial attack.”

Perhaps there’s no one better qualified to both assess the powers and problems of English teaching or the possibilities involved in the murder of an especially demanding instructor than a fellow teacher. Liz just knows no self-respecting English teacher could commit suicide (as some have suggested) without leaving a grammatically-correct note detailing the matter.

And so she joins a police investigation, embarking on a mission outside her area of expertise to solve the puzzles surrounding Marcia’s death. The first thing she finds is that some of the answers lie in the English language, in coded lesson plans that involve Shakespeare references and clues that a non-English instructor could not decipher.

Her special English language knowledge thus places her in a better position to track down the possibilities than even the savvy detective assigned to Marcia’s case (it also helps that she’s the daughter of a small-time crook and con man). As she unravels a complicated case, a series of dangerous encounters place her not only closer to the truth, but at odds with others who also are racing against time.

Within the mystery genre there are always standout titles, and the reasons for their exceptional presence lie not so much in murder mystery solving, but in the delicate process of crafting personalities, purposes, and logic that lead mystery fans on a satisfyingly complex route during the investigation.

In the case of Lesson Plan for Murder, this art is carefully construed to lend a lively feel to a story line filled with clever twists and psychological intrigue. Part of the reason why these devices work so wonderfully here are the story’s tie-ins with English literature and teaching: “Mrs. Donnatella was not a likely candidate as the target of Marcia’s lesson plan on Lolita, since the book featured a pedophile, and she loathed children even more than she loathed adults.”

Liz maintains close relationships with students and family and attends to her teaching duties throughout, adding realistic atmosphere and insights to the story line. The peppering of psychological insights about these relationships also offer plenty of well-done moments: “When I asked George “what about you” I meant that I wanted to know what he would be doing to help take charge of the situation, and I was distracted by his selfish answer.”

Threads of humor also offer a style of comic relief unexpected for a murder mystery (“While I was waiting I called the Oak Ridge police department, although I was slightly embarrassed at the thought of the cops inspecting the house. The cleaning ladies were due to come the following morning, which meant that from a housekeeping perspective, the house was at its worst.”), rounding out the attributes that place Lesson Plan for Murder in a class of its own as a thoroughly engrossing, occasionally funny, wry examination of the world of teaching, students, and the special challenges of solving a colleague’s demise.

Very highly recommended as an exceptional stand-out powered not just by its mystery, but by a psychological atmosphere that brings characters and setting to life to keep its action fast-paced and vivid.