Saturday, February 8, 2014

A great installment to a long running mystery series.


By Jonathan Kellerman

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A few words about book series. I'm skeptical about them. It's not that there's anything wrong with them. It's just that I prefer to visit new worlds and experiences when I read. But I understand the attraction to series. Some readers like to enter an escape world that they are familiar with. They like to see their constant hero/companion struggle and win over and over again. There's a certain amount of pleasure and security in that. I totally understand. I remember how I became obsessed with the James Bond books when I was in Junior High, hiding Goldfinger under my mattress less my conservative parents spotted the nude gold girl on the cover. My mother did find it and showed my father. I thought I was in trouble but the father read it and became a James Bond fan too. But unfortunately many series become a bit redundant like the reader is writing only to keep the audience and only to cash the checks. In my humble opinion, few book series heroes continue to grab me over and over again. I hate to say it but it's easy to get lazy...


Excuse me. I fell asleep. Where was I? oh yes...

Which brings us to Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series. Killer is the 29th book of the series. That bodes well for his pension. Book series writers do get a pension, don't they?. But it is the first Delaware novel I've read. I now plan to go to book one and start from scratch because this novel really grabbed me in the same way James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Hap and Leonard, and Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt and Hank Thompson did. It's probably not all surprising since the main character is a psychologist who works cases from the court and I am a retired clinical social worker who did my share of court cases. But Killer felt fresh. I didn't feel like I was reading a retread or missing a lot like I did with the currently released White Fire of Preston & Child's Pendergrast series. Delaware felt like the kind of constantly returning hero I could hitch a ride with.

So here's the scoop. Alex Delaware occasionally does evaluations for child custody cases. He kind of hates them but sees the need for it. At this point, I want to step into my day job for a minute and say I don't blame him. His remarks about child custody cases are brutally honest and dead on. His current case looks to be fairly cut and dry until the losing side places a hit on him. Then a body shows up. It's not his but if you read plenty of mysteries. I'm sure you can guess whose it is.

The body count piles up while Delaware and his homicide detective friend attempts to uncover the killer. There's an obvious choice and some not so obvious choices. All of this unfolds in a very entertaining style with loads of realistic grit. What I really like is the character of Delaware. He is sharp and observant to the psychological makeup of the people he deals with. This novel feels more like a psychological thriller than most mystery novels with continuing characters. His therapy session scenes, which are my favorite parts of the novel, are real and appropriate to the profession.That may be a small thing to you but I cannot tell you how often writers get it wrong. If I read one more novel about a therapist who falls in love with his client I am going to use that book for kitty litter. Suffice to say that doesn't happen here. The author is too smart and too good to do that. Kellerman writes dynamite dialog and knows how to tease the reader. That's pretty much essential in mystery series. Over all Killer is what the mystery reader wants in a novel.

So to rehash. I am skeptical about mystery series. Series can disappoint and drag. Kellerman's 29th installment about Alex Delaware doesn't disappoint or drag. Good sign. Fresh. Exciting. It has a beat and I can dance to it. I'm going to get the rest starting with number one and will hide them under my mattress for old times' sake.

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