Having first appeared in “Death Will Get You Sober” Bruce Kohhler and the gang return in the sequel “Death Will Help You Leave Him.” A title that certainly fits the book very well despite the fact that this novel never comes close to the first book in terms of mystery, humor, or engaging story.


As the book opens, recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohhler is dragged out in the rain in New York in the middle of the night by his friend Barbara. Barbara works as an addictions counselor and is sponsoring a woman, Luz, in Al-Anon. Luz was being abused by her drug dealing boyfriend, Frankie, who was also a married man with kids. Luz came home to find him dead on her kitchen floor. At some point after finding the body, Luz made a semi hysterical call to Barbara telling her about the death and that the cops think she did it. So, Barbara is riding to the rescue and dragging her boyfriend, Jimmy, and Bruce along with her.


Frankie had a history of mentally abusing Luz and most likely physically abusing her which would clearly give Luz motive. Beyond the fact that the guy had the bad grace to die in Luz’s apartment, it also appears that Frankie knew his killer and let him or her in. Then there is the whole adultery angle that she was having sex with a man she knew to be married and wanted him to leave his wife. These points and numerous others make Luz the obvious suspect.


Before long, with the police focused on Luz, Barbara and Jimmy are wading to help investigate and dragging Bruce right along with them. As if Bruce doesn’t have enough to deal with concerning his own sobriety. His ex-wife, Laura, is in heavy contact with Bruce, seems to be deep in her own abusive relationship with another man in her life, and apparently off her meds for her bipolar disorder while making various plays for Bruce’s attention.


The second book in a series is frequently not as good as the first series and that certainly is the case here. While the first novel stayed away, for the most part, from jargon this one does not. It also moves far slower than the first novel. However, the biggest problem is the twin storylines of abuse.


Abuse and issues relating to abuse do not lend themselves to humor or enjoyable reading in a novel that ultimately concludes in a depressing and not at all unexpected ending. “Death Will Help You Leave Him” is a mystery that isn’t much of a mystery and therefore relies on the internal conflict Bruce has dealing with his ex-wife. This extremely slow moving sequel illustrates all too well the dangers with destructive relationships. It also clearly illustrates the long history of the experience the author has as a New York City Psychotherapist.


Death Will Help You Leave Him

Elizabeth Zelvin


Thomas Dunne Books (Minotaur/St. Martin’s Publishing Group)


October 2009

ISBN# 978-0-312-58266-1


275 Pages



Book provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Be Sociable, Share!