Jonathan Kellerman

Breakdown – Jonathan Kellerman

Title – Breakdown

Author – Jonathan Kellerman

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

In the past I used to receive some specific hardback books at Christmas which I would then devour over the next few days. Initially this was a Dick Francis and then it became a Jonathan Kellerman; habits change, as do publishing dates, so over the last few years this hasn’t happened. It also doesn’t seem as if I have the chance to read much during the day at Christmas any longer, but a spare pair of hands with puppy-sitting and a long-neglected Kellerman on my TBR and I seized the opportunity!

This is number 31 in the Alex Delaware series, a series that’s had its ups and downs, and I’d say that this was a ‘middling’ book. The main thread of the story is that five years previously consulting psychologist Alex Delaware evaluated the young son of a disturbed actress, Zelda Chase, as a favour for a colleague. The colleague has since died and when the actress is sectioned after some bizarre behaviour Delaware is called in because of his tenuous connection. He tries to help the young woman but Delaware is unable to find out from the woman, who has been living on the streets, what has happened to her son. This leads to a bit of an obsession as he tries to find the boy and even enlists Milo’s (LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis) help in trying to track him down.

The woman is released and Delaware and Sturgis sort out some accommodation for her but she still doesn’t offer any insight into what happened to her son. Then her body is discovered in the grounds of a grand estate in a prestigious area of LA. It  takes a while but eventually they have to give credence to Zelda’s belief in a dreadful event in her past.

The scene-setting at the beginning with the events when Delaware first encounters Zelda and her son are quite tedious but worth persevering with. After the death of Zelda the book takes on more of an investigatory feel with the focus on Zelda and her story – how she died, how she came to be homeless. Then more women go missing.

Less in the way of red herrings and twists than some books in the series, more Hollywood and acting than some. The relevant information which is important solving the case comes quite indirectly to the pair and that felt a bit frustrating. If the story was about Delaware’s search for Zelda’s son he seemed to forget that was his purpose sometimes and then that thread would get back on track. Oooh – and one inconsistency late on in the book that irritated me.

The pairing of Delaware and Sturgis works well, but then Kellerman has had a lot of time to develop the partnership. In fact thinking back to when the series was first published having a gay cop in Sturgis could well have been cutting edge. The pair bounce ideas off each other and discuss their theories, which helps to take the reader along with their train of thought.

Kellerman’s writing has a very specific feel and it’s like putting on a comfy pair of slippers for me but I know it’s not a style that appeals to everyone it’s an aspect that I really like, and for me it helps to bring the characters and situations to life. This was a book more about investigation that psychology, but no less enjoyable for that.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. Probably a 3.5 star rather than just a 3.

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Motive – Jonathan Kellerman

MotiveTitle – Motive

Author – Jonathan Kellerman

Published – September 2015 (paperback)

Genre – Crime fiction

So this is number 30 in the Alex Delaware series – where did the time go?
It can’t be easy to maintain a series over such a long period (the first ‘Delaware’ title was published in 1985) and having read all the titles in the series I can say that there have been many peaks accompanied by a few ‘troughs’ along the way. But Motive seems like part of his return to form.

The story opens with Milo (LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis) consulting psychologist Alex Delaware when he is frustrated by a seemingly simple murder that he has been unable to solve. Delaware can add nothing and the case remains stalled. Move forward a few weeks and Milo is back in touch – this time he’s looking for Delaware’s psych skills in the murder of a wealthy divorcee who has been shot in the car park of a law firm.

The pairing of Delaware and Sturgis works well, but then Kellerman has had a lot of time to develop the partnership. In fact thinking back to when the series was first published having a gay cop in Sturgis could well have been cutting edge. The pair bounce ideas off each other and discuss their theories, which helps to take the reader along with their train of thought.

There’s not a great deal of the psychological component to the story, especially compared to earlier books in the series, more it’s diligent police work and of course Delaware can’t resist undertaking some of the investigative work himself. These stories don’t rely on large amounts of detailed forensic work but are more about talking to the people involved (witnesses, suspects) and getting others to come back with the results of the more detailed investigative work. There are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing but (fortunately) the plot isn’t as convoluted as some have of the book’s predecessors. I was also pleased that there was less of Delaware’s personal life than there has been in some of the later novels.

Kellerman’s writing has a very specific feel when it comes to descriptions and although I know it’s not a style that appeals to everyone it’s an aspect that I really like, and for me it helps to bring the characters and situations to life.

So there’s a twisty plot, some red herrings, and a spot of sleuthing – both amateur and professional. All in all an enjoyable read. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

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Mystery – Jonathan Kellerman

51lf8elo6tLTitle – Mystery

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