By Sophia Asare
March 16, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Fieldwork, Mischa Berlinski’s first novel, begins when an American anthropologist convicted of murdering a young missionary in Thailand kills herself while serving a life sentence in prison. The sensational headline sends a journalist named Mischa Berlinski on an obsessive search for answers. ”Such is the power of a good story,” writes the author’s alter ego. However, this murder mystery quickly devolves into a rich yet cumbersome travelogue detailing the places and people Berlinski encounters during his makeshift crime investigation. Thankfully, Berlinski takes the scenic route, offering vibrant images of lime-green rice paddies and wild roses in bloom after the monsoons. But by the time he returns to the missonary’s fate, too much time has passed for readers to really care. B-