Author – Jonathan Kellerman
Published – 2010
Genre – Crime fiction
I started reading Jonathan Kellerman’s books for no better reason than they were quite long , so when I had an hour’s train journey to work each day they actually lasted me for the best part of a week. It was one of my better book choices and Kellerman quickly became one of my favourite, if not my top, authors.
If you’ve never read any of Kellerman’s books (really? – you should do something about that) they mostly feature a partnership between Alex Delaware, a child psychologist, and Milo Sturgis his friend & (gay) LAPD detective (now a lieutenant). In the early books the stories revolved much more around Delaware’s work with children, either through private practice, or as a consultant in custody cases, but Mystery is number 26 in the series so there have obviously had to be a few new variations on the theme. The books are a combination of psychological thriller and criminal detection.
In Mystery, Delaware and his long-term girlfriend visit an old haunt of theirs, a rundown hotel on the verge of closing. They both notice a man behaving oddly outside the hotel, and a young and very attractive woman in the bar who seems to be waiting for someone. The next day Milo pays an early morning visit to Delaware & tells him about a new homicide he’s working on with an unidentified victim. Ta dah! Delaware realises that the victim is the young woman from the previous evening. I might balk at such a coincidence in other books, but as Delaware says – maybe it was due.
Kellerman’s plots tend to be quite complicated, the stories full of restaurant stops – where Milo does his best work, and the scenery is provided by LA. Mystery is no exception, in attempting to track down the identity of the victim the pair become involved in a world of sugar daddies and internet dating, and of families with secrets. There’s also a second thread to the story as Delaware is asked to help an old acquaintance who is looking for some support for her young son. Delaware finds himself doing a bit more of the investigating in this book than he should, but generally he is the calm and thoughtful influence in the books, with Sturgis the more flamboyant but practical policeman.
I think the style of writing is one you either love or hate. Kellerman has a very spare way with words that I like. Lots of short sentences. I think the dialogue is realistic with lots of half-finished sentences and very true to how people really speak. He also has a knack for describing characters in a brief paragraph, and I do look for the author to paint me a picture of the people & places he’s telling me about.
“The woman who marched through was forty or so with thick, wavy chestnut hair, wide aqua eyes, and a longish face of a porcelain hue and consistency that suggested sun phobia. Full lips, thin beakish nose, a smidge too much chin for ideal beauty.”
I have to confess that I don’t think some of the recent Kellerman books have been quite up to the standards of the earlier ones, but this is one a great return to form. If you haven’t read any of his books before you won’t feel as if you’ve missed out if you start with Mystery, but I suggest going back to the very beginning and trying When the Bough Breaks.
And don’t confuse this Kellerman with his author wife Faye Kellerman, or his author son Jesse Kellerman!
Score – 4/5