June 2, 2014
One of the things that I really enjoy about Jonathan Kellerman's books is that they're a great meld of straightforward, hardboiled writing (like Robert B. Parker) and melding more high-concept ideas, merging the world of the average counselor/clinician with a strong thriller plot (the same way Sara Paretsky manages to integrate social justice and related concerns into her V.I. Warshawski books).
So reading Killer - Kellerman's latest entry in the Alex Delaware series - was a simple decision.
It's also the first Kellerman book that I've enjoyed in a long time - so much so that it made me nostalgic for my time in the social justice field.
But that's part of Kellerman's skill - very few writers could launch a full-out thriller with a clinical psychologist choosing to take on referrals from Los Angeles family court for parenting assessments. (Don't worry - it's not as bland as I say). In fact, one of the highlights very early in the book is when a judge compliments Dr. Alex Delaware for being more "assertive" than other child psychologists. When Delaware takes on a case of two sisters fighting over a child, it seems pretty cut-and-dried....or does it? One sister is a free-spirit; the other is a tightly wound clinician. And things....well, that would be spoiling...
One of Kellerman's main strengths is how he integrates "current events" into his books, but often does so from intriguing angles. He's done it before - from controversies around Bruno Betelheim in Bad Love to alternative treatments in The Web , and even taking on a certain celebrity couple in his last book - but Kellerman avoids the easy "top of mind" reference in his work. (Think Law & Order, especially Law & Order: SVU for examples of how not to do this). When Delaware's life is threatened, he finds himself again partnered with his friend, Lt. Milo Sturgis, and being pulled deeper into a central mystery...
And that's what makes the book work - for every moment of tension, there's a counterexample of Delaware using his clinical knowledge to break down a scene, whether it's talking with a client in prison or dealing with the outside world....this is definitely one of the most enjoyable entries in the series.
Buy this. Read this. Now.