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Book Review – Guilt: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman

March 10, 2013 1 comment

Victims

Book Description:

Jonathan Kellerman’s “psychology skills and dark imagination are a potent literary mix” (Los Angeles Times), and this intensely thrilling blend has never been so powerful as in the acclaimed author’s new novel of murder and madness among the beautiful dreamers, seductive predators, and doomed innocents adrift in the glare of Southern California’s eternal sunshine.

A series of horrifying events occur in quick succession in the same upscale L.A. neighborhood. A backyard renovation unearths an infant’s body, buried sixty years ago. And soon thereafter in a nearby park, another disturbingly bizarre discovery is made not far from the body of a young woman shot in the head. Helping LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis to link these eerie incidents is brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware. But even the good doctor’s vast experience with matters both clinical and criminal might not be enough to cut down to the bone of this chilling case—and draw out the disturbing truth.

Backtracking six decades into the past stirs up tales of a beautiful nurse with a mystery lover, a handsome, wealthy doctor who seems too good to be true, and a hospital with a notorious reputation — all of them long gone, along with any records of a newborn, and destined for anonymity. But the specter of fame rears its head when the case unexpectedly twists in the direction of the highest echelons of celebrity privilege. Entering this sheltered world, Alex little imagines the macabre layer just below the surface — a decadent quagmire of unholy rituals and grisly sacrifice.

Before their work is done, Alex and Milo, “the most original whodunit duo since Watson and Holmes” (Forbes), must confront a fanatically deranged mind of such monstrous cunning that even the most depraved madman would shudder.

*

It’s 2013, and for Jonathan Kellerman fans like me – the new year means that Mr Kellerman will have a new book out. It’s like clockwork with him. And it didn’t take him long too – Guilt, which is book #28 in Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, was released just this February, and I wasted no time in getting myself a copy 🙂

In Guilt, Alex and Milo are initially called in for a super cold case – the decades-old remains of an infant is found accidentally during a backyard renovation. But things do come in three’s, don’t they, and two more bodies – a woman and another set of infant bones – are discovered in a nearby park. Are the two cases somehow connected?  Alex and Milo dig into both the past and the present, and end up entangling with Hollywood (including a pair of Jolie/Pitt-esque suspects).

I finished this one pretty quickly (in two days flat) and as a long time fan of the series, I was okay with it (except for the bland ending). It’s not the best I’ve read from Mr Kellerman, but definitely not one of the bad ones (i.e. Deception). Warning to fans who really prefer the earlier Alex Delaware books, the latest one is still more of a police procedural than a psychological thriller, so skip it if you feel really strongly about it. And my problem with the ending? It lacked suspense and danger (Very Important for crime thrillers), and involved characters I was meeting for the first time. Ergo, a distinct lack of emotional punch for such a horrible crime (baby-killer).

I did appreciate that Mr Kellerman seems to be trying to bring back the psychology aspect, even if in a peripheral or subplot way like it is in Guilt. (The previous book Victims had Alex Delaware’s psychology skills more front and center.) I personally prefer Alex when he is contributing more as a expert psychologist (like in the early books, especially when he’s working with children) instead of just being Lt. Milo Sturgis’ sounding board &/or driver &/or Google-surfing police sidekick.

Another thing I liked with Guilt was that Alex Delaware was (finally!) humbled by being very wrong about many of his conclusions. That sounds odd, I know, but I was getting fed up with how ‘Mary-Sue’ the character was, as this super-sleuth who was always right, while there seemed to be a dumbing down of Milo. I mean there was an actual scene in the book where Milo’s boss tells Alex that he’s the better detective (?! – I was very offended on Milo’s behalf).

Guilt: An Alex Delaware Novel (#28) by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books) is available on Amazon, B&N , Kobobooks and Apple iBookstore.

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Book Review – Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman

March 8, 2012 2 comments

Victims

Book Description:

Unraveling the madness behind L.A.’s most baffling and brutal homicides is what sleuthing psychologist Alex Delaware does best. And putting the good doctor through his thrilling paces is what mystery fiction’s #1 bestselling master of psychological suspense Jonathan Kellerman does with incomparable brilliance. Kellerman’s universally acclaimed novels blend the addictive rhythms of the classic police procedural with chilling glimpses into the darkest depths of the human condition. For the compelling proof, look no further than Victims—Kellerman at his razor-sharp, harrowing finest.

Not since Jack the Ripper terrorized the London slums has there been such a gruesome crime scene. By all accounts, acid-tongued Vita Berlin hadn’t a friend in the world, but whom did she cross so badly as to end up arranged in such a grotesque tableau? One look at her apartment–turned–charnel house prompts hard-bitten LAPD detective Milo Sturgis to summon his go-to expert in hunting homicidal maniacs, Alex Delaware. But despite his finely honed skills, even Alex is stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion . . . yet with no apparent connection among the victims. And the only clue left behind—a blank page bearing a question mark—seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges.

Under pressure to end the bloody spree and prevent a citywide panic, Milo redoubles his efforts to discover a link between the disparate victims. Meanwhile, Alex navigates the secretive world of mental health treatment, from the sleek office of a Beverly Hills therapist to a shuttered mental institution where he once honed his craft—and where an unholy alliance between the mad and the monstrous may have been sealed in blood. As each jagged piece of the puzzle fits into place, an ever more horrific portrait emerges of a sinister mind at its most unimaginable—and an evil soul at its most unspeakable. “This one was different,” Alex observes at the start of the case. This one will haunt his waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.

*

“There was a boy… A curious boy.”

One of the benefits of being a fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware Series is that there’s no long wait between each book in the series. There’s a new novel almost every year (starting from 1985!), and for 2012, we have the latest release Victims (Alex Delaware series #27).

I finished this one in two days flat, and as a long time fan of the series, I got exactly what I expected. Victims is classic Kellerman with his easy to read writing style, an interesting mystery that moved at a brisk pace (and had a good twist that I didn’t expect!), and the now familiar partnership between child psychologist Alex and Lt. Milo Sturgis. I’d been complaining that the most recent books in the series were more police procedural than psychological thrillers, so I was really happy that this latest installment had Alex contributing more as a psychologist again like in the early books (instead of simply being the Google-surfing police sidekick).

In Victims, Alex and Milo have to deal with a deeply psychologically disturbed serial killer (with an interest in human anatomy) who seemingly targets random victims – an unpleasant bully, a blameless family man, a married couple and a homeless man. As the bodies pile up and Milo’s superiors pressure him for a break in the case, Alex and Milo race to find answers in the past (including a trip down memory lane for Alex who tracks down his past contacts as a young psychology intern to help in the investigation). There are suspense a-plenty with Kellerman keeping things interesting, and I really liked that there were a couple of places where I went – Whoa! Didn’t expect that twist! I even liked the ending where against all reason, I felt empathy for the serial killer (who is really a ‘victim’ himself of the public mental health system).

Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel (#27) by Jonathan Kellerman is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover, Paperback Large Print and Audible Audio Edition Unabridged.

It is also available as an eBook at B&N , Kobobooks and Apple iBookstore.

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Book Review – Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Few know the city of Los Angeles the way #1 bestselling author and acclaimed suspense master Jonathan Kellerman does. His thrilling novels of psychological drama and criminal detection make the capital of dreams a living, breathing character in all its glamour and infamy. That storied history of fame, seduction, scandal, and murder looms large in Mystery, as Alex Delaware finds himself drawn into a twisting, shadowy whodunit that’s pure L.A. noir—and vintage Kellerman.

The closing of their favorite romantic rendezvous, the Fauborg Hotel in Beverly Hills, is a sad occasion for longtime patrons Alex Delaware and Robin Castagna. And gathering one last time with their fellow faithful habitués for cocktails in the gracious old venue makes for a bittersweet evening. But even more poignant is a striking young woman—alone and enigmatic among the revelers—waiting in vain in elegant attire and dark glasses that do nothing to conceal her melancholy. Alex can’t help wondering what her story is, and whether she’s connected to the silent, black-suited bodyguard lingering outside the hotel.

Two days later, Alex has even more to contemplate when police detective Milo Sturgis comes seeking his psychologist comrade’s insights about a grisly homicide. To Alex’s shock, the brutalized victim is the same beautiful woman whose lonely hours sipping champagne at the Fauborg may have been her last.

But with a mutilated body and no DNA match, she remains as mysterious in death as she seemed in life. And even when a tipster’s sordid revelation finally cracks the case open, the dark secrets that spill out could make Alex and Milo’s best efforts to close this horrific crime not just impossible but fatal.

*

I’ve kinda lost count, but I think that Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman is the 26th novel in the series. I still haven’t made good in my goal of reading ALL the books in the series that I’ve missed, but I’ll get there 🙂 At any rate, I’ve read enough of the books that the characters of Dr Alex Delaware and Lt Milo Sturgis might as well be old friends of mine, and even though Mr Kellerman’s most recent efforts haven’t been as good as the first books he wrote, he’s still reliable as clockwork in putting out an enjoyable not-too-demanding mystery which also stars one of my fave fictional characters ever (the openly gay detective Milo). In short, Mr Kellerman is one of those authors whose books I check out automatically when a new one comes out (without even bothering to read the book description).

I’m happy to report that Mystery is so much better than the last book Deception (totally spoiled by a WTF?! ending). The latest case involves the investigation into the violent death (by multiple gunshot wounds to the face!) of a young Jane Doe – who Alex Delaware just happened to recognize as the mysterious & beautiful young lady in a bar that he and his significant other Robin had visited the night before. Alex and Milo trace the girl to an online social networking service that specializes in hooking up May-December ‘romances’ (aka ‘sugar daddies’ & their ‘sweeties’), and from there to several strong suspects that range from a bodyguard/pimp to the super-rich family of the victim’s ex-sugar daddy. Dr Delaware plays a more active role this time around with his wizardly internet search skills uncovering secrets in quick succession (and his girl Robin even joins in the amateur sleuthing at one point), but Lt Milo is still given room to be his awesome self (one of my favorite scenes is when Milo beats a snooty non-cooperative lawyer at his own game). I’m still holding out hope that Jonathan Kellerman will one day write a book that’s titled XXX: A Milo Sturgis Novel 😉

I’ve mentioned before that I miss seeing Alex in his child psychologist role (since his detective skills have taken center stage in the most recent books), so it was nice to see a subplot where Alex takes on the care of a dying ex-Hollywood Madam’s young boy. Very poignant interlude (even though it’s kinda out of left field and I really didn’t see how it connected to the main plot).

The book starts out slow, but everything does build up to a pretty worthy (if very surprising) guilty party (except I still don’t understand how Alex was able to connect all those disparate dots to figure out the murderer AND I really don’t get why the police force allowed Alex to be at center-stage in the end. Last I knew, he was still a civilian and not the LAPD’s go-to guy to secure confessions). I thought the mystery was tricky enough (without being too clever) with enough red herrings and twist & turns to make an Alex Delaware series fan (like me!) happy. Like I said, by now the characters are like old friends – and I like the familiarity and comfort in their easy rapport – so my good-ish review should be taken in that light. For someone new to the series looking for more thrills, I can understand if the book’s plot would appear formulaic and even boring. The best books from the series are still the ones written as psychological thrillers in the late 80s IMO.

Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($12.99), Hardcover ($14.73), Paperback Large Print ($15.96) and Audible Audio Edition Unabridged ($26.95).

It is also available as an eBook at B&N , Kobobooks and Sony ebookstore for $12.99.

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Book Review – ‘Deception – An Alex Delaware Novel’ by Jonathan Kellerman

June 5, 2010 1 comment

Book Description:

Her name is Elise Freeman, and her chilling cry for help — to whoever may be listening — comes too late to save her. On a DVD found near her lifeless body, the emotionally and physically battered woman chronicles a year-and-a-half-long ordeal of monstrous abuse at the hands of three sadistic tormentors. But even more shocking than the lurid details is the revelation that the offenders, like their victim, are teachers at one of L.A.’s most prestigious prep schools. With Elise now dead by uncertain means, homicide detective Milo Sturgis is assigned to probe the hallowed halls of Windsor Prep Academy. And if ever he could use Dr. Alex Delaware’s psychological prowess, it’s now.

From the get-go, this case promises to be an uphill climb for truth and a down and dirty fight for justice. Allegations of rape, assault, and possibly murder at this esteemed institution renowned for molding Ivy Leaguers make for a social and political time bomb — especially given that one of the students has connections high up in City Hall. As the scandal-conscious elite of L.A. close ranks around Windsor Prep, Alex and Milo must penetrate the citadel of wealth and scholarship to expose the hidden anguish, dirty secrets, and deadly sins festering among society’s manor-born. But power and position are not easily surrendered, for that’s when the best and the brightest turn brutal and ugly. Searching for predators among the privileged, Alex and Milo may well be walking into a highly polished death trap.

As Jonathan Kellerman novels go, this one should still satisfy longtime fans, but I found the whole thing pretty lightweight (and kinda pointless). Psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis are called in to “investigate” the death of a tutor at the exclusive Windsor Preparatory Academy in Brentwood at the request of Deputy Chief Weinberg. For personal (and selfish) reasons, Weinberg wants the investigation to attract as little publicity as possible. Delaware and Sturgis are hobbled at every turn (but “helped” at the penultimate hour by a surprise ally) as they delve into the victim’s (Elise Freeman) hidden life & secrets. They discover a multitude of suspects (boyfriend, students, teachers) with Ms Freeman turning out to be not quite the innocent victim as initially thought. Nothing is what it seems at first – hence the title of the book ‘Deception’.

After finishing it, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed (especially at the ending). Mr Kellerman continues his new style of more a ‘police procedural’ than ‘psychology’-oriented thriller/mystery. Not too happy about that (as I’m a huge fan of the original novels), but Delaware and Sturgis do still form a pretty interesting dynamic duo, and it’s fun to hitch a ride as these two try to figure out who-did-what-when-how. Major bummer for me though (not to spoil anything) – I kind of like knowing a little something about the eventual murderers – it’s no fun being totally blindsided and pretty much going – who? – at the big reveal. There’s a big difference between going – oh, wow, didn’t suspect him! – to – who the hell was that?

Still, it’s an engaging yarn, written in such a way that it’s a smooth (but not boring) read, tight while not being too demanding on your mental muscles to follow the action. I’d read a Kellerman novel any day over say, an overblown Dan Brown or Douglas Preston. It’s the perfect book to while away an afternoon or two, especially if you’re already familiar with Mr Kellerman’s style and his main characters Alex and Milo. A bonus in this book (for me) is that we get a deeper understanding of Chief Weinberg. He was a new character that Mr Kellerman introduced around 2-3 books back who made Milo’s life easier, and I really like him (because of that), even if he was a douche in this one. Chief Weinberg’s son is a keeper though, and I hope that Mr Kellerman brings the son back in future novels in the series.

And addendum – I’m still waiting for an XXX : A Milo Sturgis Novel from Mr Kellerman. I mean he’s heading there anyway with Alex Delaware seeming to be just along for the ride in the latest novels, and Milo being the ‘main man’. Just own it already – let Milo be the one narrating so I’d finally see into his mind as he navigates being an out gay detective in the LAPD, and meet the hunky ER doctor boyfriend! as a bonus.

‘Deception – An Alex Delaware Novel’ is available on Amazon as a Hardcover ($18.48), Kindle Edition ($9.99), Paperback ($9.99), and Audio CD ($29.70).

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Book Review – “EVIDENCE” by Jonathan Kellerman

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Book Synopsis:

In the half-built skeleton of a monstrously vulgar mansion in one of L.A.’s toniest neighborhoods, a watchman stumbles on the bodies of a young couple–murdered in flagrante and left in a gruesome postmortem embrace. Though he’s cracked some of the city’s worst slayings, veteran homicide cop Milo Sturgis is still shocked at the grisly sight: a twisted crime that only Milo’s killer instincts–and psychologist Alex Delaware’s keen insights–can hope to solve.

While the female victim’s identity remains a question mark, her companion is ID’d as eco-friendly architect Desmond Backer, who disdains the sort of grandiose superstructure he’s found dead in. And the late Mr. Backer, it’s revealed was also notorious for his power to seduce women.

The rare exception is his ex-boss, Helga Gemein, who’s as indifferent to Desmond’s death as she apparently was to his advances. Though Milo and Alex place her on their short list of suspects, the deeper they dig for clues the longer the list grows. An elusive prince who appears to harbor decidedly American appetites, an eccentric blueblood with an ax to grind, one of Desmond’s restless ex-lovers and her cuckolded husband–all are in the homicidal mix spiced with eco-terrorism, arson, blackmail, conspiracy, and a vendetta that runs deep. But when the investigation veers suddenly in a startling direction, it’s the investigators who may wind up on the wrong end of a cornered predator’s final fury.

I haven’t really kept up with Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, so it was nice to check back into the world of his clinical child-psychologist cum sleuth Alex Delaware and his best friend detective Milo Sturgiss on novel #23? / #24? I see that not much has changed, both characters are each still with their significant others and doing their usual … but Jonathan Kellerman seems to have changed his writing style a little bit. The change doesn’t necessarily make this novel better or worse than his older novels (that I’ve read), but I was a bit surprised with how little clinical psychology plays in this novel. Has it been like this for the last couple of novels?

In Evidence: An Alex Delaware Novel, Alex Delaware acts more like an interested passenger, mostly reporting on what’s happening and giving Milo some tips every now and then. I think this should’ve been titled ‘Evidence : A Milo Sturgiss Novel‘, since it is Milo’s story to tell actually. Milo, the gay L.A. detective who has been through more than his fair share of life’s hard knocks, is a very interesting character, and he can actually carry the book – I just thought that maybe Jonathan Kellerman could’ve gone inside Milo’s head, instead of giving us Alex’ voice on Milo. Anyway, given this change in approach, Evidence is more concerned with the police procedures than usual, and kinda reads like a Hollywood movie script most of the time. If you’re a fan of Alex going into his psych-analysis mode, there’s not much of that here.

Now, I’ve never really opened a Jonathan Kellerman book expecting great literature; I read his novels because they are well-written escapist thriller/mystery tomes that are just right for lazing away a day at the beach or a day off. And in this respect, Evidence does not disappoint. The plot is a bit more fantastical than usual for Jonathan Kellerman, but I was never bored and was quite interested in what-is-the-next-plot-twist, which is saying something these days (case in point, Dan Brown’s kinda snooze-worthy ‘Lost Symbol’!) I think the proper description is that Jonathan Kellerman still knows how to keep things exciting, thank goodness. Milo is all sorts of win (!) in this novel; I really liked how he showed his stuff in his witness/suspect interrogation sessions, and it’s about time Milo started getting some mo’ respect on the police force! Pretty cool stuff for Milo Sturgiss fans out there. Plus, the new police chief is pretty bad-ass, and I’m tempted to check out the last couple of Alex Delaware novels I’ve missed, just to see how this new character got into the game.

If you’re not after anything too deep, and just need something to take with you to stave away boredom, say on a plane or airport or car trip – I recommend Evidence: An Alex Delaware Novel anytime. It’s available on Amazon (Hardbound) for $15.97 ($12.03 savings!) and as paperback and Kindle for $9.99.

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