Killer Nashville 2018 Silver Falchion Nominee


Lesson Plan For Murder

By Lori Robbins

Barking Rain Press
ISBN 978-1941295540
Publication Date: November 21, 2017

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Review by Joy Gorence

Readers of crime fiction will uncover the machinations of a high school English department as Liz Hopewell, the new Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition teacher, becomes Liz Hopewell, “lady detective.” Liz knows full-well no AP teacher relinquishes his or her role unless death intervenes, so when the AP Lit teacher suddenly dies, Liz knows something is amiss. With skill and craft, Ms. Robbins never leaves an opportunity to guide the reader through a mastery of allusions interlaced with the reality of high school faculty drama to create a lively, delightful, and fast-paced mystery novel. 

After Liz enters Marcia’s AP classroom and notices Marcia’s “shiny red-soled shoes on the floor…[which] really were beautiful shoes,” she sees the body of the “acerbic” Marcia Deaver “behind the desk.” Gordon, the principal of Valerian Hills High School, bestows the coveted role of AP instructor to Liz, who understands that Marcia Deaver, whom Liz doesn’t really know, would never commit suicide despite the preliminary report of her cause of death. When the “Hot Detective” comes to investigate, Liz explains that “Marcia’s entire life was ruled by the written word.  She wouldn’t have killed herself without leaving a suicide note.” Although at first, the detective doesn’t take her observations seriously, it soon becomes apparent that she is more attuned to the workings of an AP teacher than he realizes.

Ms. Robbins uses the titles of her chapters to provide further insight into each chapter. Chapter one entitled “Things Fall Apart” not only appeals to the readers of Achebe’s novel, but its title also provides clues to the disturbance of the balance of the norm.  With an eye to detail, the title for chapter two, “Heart of Darkness,” is also aptly placed.  It helps reflect the conflict among the characters and also hints at the depth of what Liz is about to uncover.

To discover ‘whodunnit,’ the reader follows the crumbs that Robbins provides without any distraction of unnecessary detail.  With each new clue, the reader continually guesses how the story will end.  The final chapter, “Annals of the Former World,” reaches a satisfying conclusion through structure and substance.

Brooklyn-born Lori Robbins began dancing at age 16 and launched her professional career three years later. After ten very lean years as a dancer, she attended Hunter College, graduating summa cum laude with a major in British Literature and a minor in Classics. She is now an English teacher in New Jersey. The mother of six, Robbins has vast experience with the homicidal tendencies that everyday life inspires. Lesson Plan for Murder, Robbins’s first book was published by Barking Rain Press. Two more books are in the works: the second Lesson Plan mystery, and a new series, which takes place in the world of professional ballet. Find her at