Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth Zelvin

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Formerly titled DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER, this is the FIRST book in the Bruce Kohler mystery series by Agatha- and Derringer- Award nominee Elizabeth Zelvin.

"A hell of a job ... Great characters and a wonderful voice.” -Crimespree Magazine

“Zelvin has managed to capture the reality of alcoholism and detox, with its black humor and tragedy. Her pictures of AA meetings are very realistic. Death Will Get You Sober will strike home with anyone familiar with alcoholism or the addictions field." -The AA Blog


On Christmas Day, Bruce Kohler wakes up in detox on the Bowery in New York City. He realizes it’s time to change his life, but how can he stay sober without dying of boredom? Then homeless alcoholics begin to turn up dead, and one of these is Bruce’s friend Godfrey, a cynical aristocrat with a trust fund and some secrets.

Two old friends give Bruce a second chance and agree to help him with his investigation: his best friend, Jimmy, a computer genius and history buff who’s been in AA for years, and Jimmy’s girl friend Barbara, a counselor who sometimes crosses the line between helping and codependency.

Pretty soon, the suspects are piling up. Along with the laughs. But, witty as she is, Zelvin never loses her compassion for the painful process of recovery.

Fans of Parnell Hall and Tony Dunbar who enjoy a (virgin) cocktail of excellent writing, sly wit, and classic mystery will get a kick out of Bruce’s antics.

"A well-plotted mystery filled with believable characters and realistic situations … Without being maudlin, clichéd, or clinical, Zelvin delivers a poignant story." -Oline H. Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel

Sister Angel clanged a lugubrious bell. Some convent from before Vatican II must have had a yard sale. I threw away the stub of my cigarette and emerged from the stuffy little smoking room. The patients, many of whom had spent some time as guests of Uncle Sam, called it the Gas Chamber. After two days, I knew the drill. The staff didn’t count on us to make it to an AA meeting once we left the detox. So they brought AA to us. A few of the guys already sat in a circle of butt-destroying folding chairs. At almost every meeting one collapsed under someone’s weight. My new friend tilted his backward against the wall. He looked ultra-cool even in the Fifties-sitcom pj’s they made us wear. He was probably the only guy on the Bowery with a bathrobe from Pierre Cardin. Or at least the only one who’d bought it new. You’d be surprised what you can get from the Salvation Army.

“Take off your sunglasses, Godfrey,” said Sister Angel. Her voice held a note of resignation. She said it a dozen times a day. She had made it clear that in this detox, he would not be known as God. He had said we’d see about that, though not to her face. He waited a few seconds before removing his shades, casually, as if it was his own idea. He jerked his head at me. I ambled over and sat down next to him. Sister Angel put down the bell and clapped her hands for silence.

“Who’s the speaker?” I muttered.

“Some poor bastard from outside,” God said out of the corner of his mouth. Sure enough, one guy wasn’t wearing pajamas. He had a square, red Irish face, blue jeans, plaid flannel shirt, a watch cap, and big clumping work boots with a little snow still melting off them. White Christmas. In two days, I had almost forgotten there was such a thing as weather.

One of the counselors led off, an African-American dude with a better hairdo than Beyoncé. Medium tall, sleek, and glossy, he had a body builder’s biceps, abs, and pecs. Besides the fancy cornrows, he sported enough tattoos for a one-man show.

“Hi, I’m Darryl, and I’m an addict. Let’s start the meeting by going around with first names only.”

“Used to deal,” God murmured in my ear. He meant drugs, not poker

About Elizabeth Zelvin

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Elizabeth Zelvin is a psychotherapist. She has directed alcohol treatment programs, including one on the Bowery, and has written and lectured widely on addictions, codependency, and online therapy.  She lives in New York City.
Published December 20, 2013 by booksBnimble. 272 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Death Will Get You Sober

BC Books

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Is Guff's death an anomaly, or is it related to the other deaths of alcoholics?

Apr 12 2008 | Read Full Review of Death Will Get You Sober

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Waking up in detox is not a new thing for Bruce Kohler.

May 21 2008 | Read Full Review of Death Will Get You Sober

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