BOOK NOTES by Joan Ruddiman
Princeton Packet online, July 2003
'A Buried Lie' swings true
Kathy is a great pal and a good golf buddy. She came through on both counts with an autographed copy of Roberta Isleib's "A Buried Lie" she picked up at the Shop Rite Classic LPGA tour at the Seaview Marriott last month.
"A Buried Lie" is the second in Ms. Isleib's "A Golf Lover's Mystery" series. Aspiring pro Cassandra Burdette survived LPGA Q (for "qualifying") school as she solved a murder in "Six Strokes Under." Now Cassie is in the heat of things as she tees off in her first pro outing on the LPGA tour on the famous Bay course in view of the Atlantic City skyline.
For those of us (like the author) who as middle-aged Baby Boomers were seduced by the little round ball, this is the perfect summer read. For women, it is a special treat. Cassie struggles with her game, though as a scratch golfer her card shows more 3's and 4's than most of us (male or female) will ever see. Women golfers of any caliber will chuckle as Cassie has to prove herself to the boys on the links. Ms. Isleib's devilish sense of humor comes out in the first pages as she tweaks the gender wars that play out on any course. Cassie wryly observes how men love to power the ball, which of course they can do so much more effectively with "less club" than any woman (even a pro).
"The next shot should have been, at least for me, a bread-and-butter nine-iron approach into the green, even with a stiff breeze picking up off the bay.
'What are you hitting?' asked Dr. Gladstone.
'Give me the wedge,' he told his caddie in an imperious tone.
His ball landed well short of the green."
Cassie tackles her first pro-am event with a mixed group of pharmaceutical big shots. Hugh, Roger, Travis and Erica are fighting their own version of gender wars. The battle turns ugly when one of them turns up dead at Caesar's in Atlantic City.
The Atlantic City Police Department, led by a tough woman cop, rules it a suicide. Cassie is not convinced and between rounds where she is working to make the cut (and some much needed prize money) pokes into places where she should not be.
Besides golf that can make anyone crazy (and coping with dead bodies) Cassie also deals with a derelict father and her emotionally distant mother she describes as "the weed whacker." Fortunately, she has good friend and "psychological consultant" Joe Lancaster to help her hit them long and to help her out of jams with the police.
Much of the author's own life experiences and personality play out in the plot and her characters. Cassie's persistence reflects Ms. Isleib's own passion to succeed. Ms. Isleib, a Princeton grad (French literature), is so determined about her writing that she outlasted 29 rejections from publishers and rewrote her first novel to please Berkeley Press who suggested a different protagonist.
Ms. Isleib understands the psychology of golf (and her characters) as a clinical psychologist. She just recently gave up her Connecticut practice to pursue writing and golf. Ms. Isleib, indeed, is a golfer in her own right. She researched "A Buried Lie" by playing in the Shop Rite Classic at Seaview in 2001, soaking up details that make the book especially fun for anyone who knows that area of the Jersey Shore. When she describes the green-headed flies as "teeth with wings," Jersey folks have to smile. For those who have played the Bay course at Seaview, her intimate knowledge of the course and description of how Cassie and team play particular holes has added entertainment value.
However, mystery readers take note: Even if you have no idea of the difference between a nine iron and wedge, Ms. Isleib can draw you in with the intrigue of a murder and the panache of Cassie's perseverance as an amateur detective. Though the golf is ancillary to the crime, all the golf jargon is neatly covered in a glossary presented up front before the first chapter. Consider the glossary of terms a bonus for those who have no desire to play the game but would like to chat with the burgeoning ranks of Baby Boomers who are obsessed with golf.
"Six Strokes Under," Ms. Isleib's first novel, was nominated for the Malice Domestic Agatha Award for Best First Mystery and is awaiting final word on the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. "Board to Death" is due out in April 2004. For some additional fun, check out her Web site at www.robertaisleib.com.