The Wedding Guest, by Jonathan Kellerman****

The wedding guest is dead, slumped on the toilet, strangled. Is she someone invited by the bride’s family, or the groom’s? Neither one. Total stranger…or so they say. The thirty-fourth book in the Alex Delaware series comes out tomorrow, February 5, 2019. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine. 

Kellerman is a child psychiatrist, and his knowledge and experience dealing with children and their families provides him with a rare ability to invent quirky but believable characters. Here we find a wedding reception unfolding in a seedy building that used to be a strip club, and this provides the world’s tackiest wedding theme. All the women—including the bride—are supposed to dress to look “hot.” The groom’s family, a more conservative, scholarly bunch, are less than delighted, but they bear it stoically, till someone finds a dead guest in the loo. The bride—already turned bridezilla–is just undone. How could someone ruin her big day like this? How thoughtless. They should have killed that woman somewhere else. Or maybe on a different day. 

This series never fails to delight me. Once again, Detective Milo Sturgis gets the call; once again, his best pal Alex is tapped to analyze a young guest, and from there he becomes further involved in the case. 

There have been other books in the series that pushed this improbable situation too far, with Alex the doctor donning a Kevlar vest to go chase and apprehend bad guys with Milo. This time I find Alex’s involvement much more believable. On the one hand, he still does things that doctors advising cops never do, but limiting Alex’s participation to interviews held either in his office or at the police station wouldn’t make for good fiction. All we want is to believe. Kellerman helps us along by creating a strong friendship bond that makes Milo and Alex want to work together, and that’s coupled with Milo’s unpopularity among his colleagues due to the fact that he’s gay. Nobody else wants to get in the car and go places with Milo, and Alex does; and after all, the police do employ him, so it’s not like some random civilian is partnered with Milo. I thought this was finessed nicely this time around. 

Kellerman always writes strong dialogue that includes some very funny bits here and there, and the pages turn rapidly. It’s a lot of fun to read, and if I hadn’t been able to get the galley for this one, I’d have hunted it down later at the library rather than miss out. 

Highly recommended for fans of the genre. 

Night Moves, by Jonathan Kellerman****

Night MovesI always enjoy the Alex Delaware series. It takes a fun read to make me look forward to my stationary bike–which is generally not my favorite thing–and this did that. My rule for myself is that I am allowed to stop pedaling early, but if I do, the audio book gets turned off, and sure enough, I have been riding it full tilt to sneak in a few more pages.

The best parts are the dialogue, and of course, the adolescent characters that only Kellerman can craft so effectively. That said, I cringe when Milo tells Alex to wear a Kevlar vest when they go in to make the bust; I have bought the premise of the psychiatrist riding around as if he were Milo’s partner, since it makes for a good story and is so well written, but when the bulletproof vests come out, my eyes roll. Noooo, don’t be silly.

John Rubenstein does a fantastic job of reading, and his voices for the many characters are bang on.

Crime Scene, by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman***-****

crimesceneCrime Scene is the first in the Clay Edison series, written by a father and son team. Big thanks to Random House Ballantine for the DRC, which I received in exchange for this honest review. I rate this mystery 3.5 stars.

Edison is a coroner’s investigator, and he finds himself drawn into an ugly, complicated murder, seduced by the lovely Tatiana, who I found myself disliking much earlier than the protagonist does. There’s the psychological component here that’s similar to the movies, where the audience yells, “Don’t go through that door” as the main character strolls obliviously forward; however, where the Kellermans take the story once Edison has wised up is interesting, original, and well played.

I enjoy the snappy banter that I associate with the elder Kellerman’s other novels, and there’s a hugely entertaining side character named Afton that I’d love to see again. The setting of the down-and-out neighborhood is resonant enough that I am convinced at least one of these men has actually spent time in such a place.

That said, the first half of the story is better paced than the second, and there’s a racial component that appears well-intentioned but awkward.

This promising series is now available to the public, and is recommended to Kellerman’s fans.

The Murderer’s Daughter, by Jonathan Kellerman *****

kell__jkt_all_r1.inddGrace Blades is a psychologist helping victims of violent trauma, those she mentally refers to as “The Haunted”. And she should know; as a small child, she watched her mother murder her father, and then more or less eviscerate herself before Grace’s own tiny eyes. So yes, she knows. But a client has come to her with a concern that is more than it appears to be, and it dovetails with a harrowing part of Grace’s past. In fact, she has reason now to believe she may be in danger, and it’s up to her to sort out the pieces and save her own life. This riveting DRC came to me free from Net Galley and Random House-Ballantine Publishers; thanks go to both. The book is for sale August 18.

Fans of Kellerman’s have likely bonded with his Alex Delaware series. Although Delaware’s name is coyly inserted into the background text a time or two, this book isn’t about him, it’s a stand alone. It’s a strong story, and Kellerman’s initial career as a child psychologist makes Grace wholly believable. Someone that has gone through the multiple traumas her childhood has visited upon her would probably have trouble bonding with others, and indeed, Grace goes through life neither wanting nor having real friends her own age. She trusts one social worker, as well as the psychologist who together with his wife ultimately adopts her. And even with them, she has to force herself to smile, to show affection; these are never spontaneous behaviors, but ones learned by observation.

Readers of my blog know that I generally don’t review books about wealthy people. I don’t relate to the rich, and it generally seems like a coward’s way out on the part of the author, because they can excuse their protagonist from the daily financial obstacles that most people have to deal with. But Grace has gone through so many hells by the time she reaches her wealth that this book is different; then too, Jonathan Kellerman is such a crazy-good writer that it would be hard to leave a galley of his by the wayside in any case.

In addition, I appreciated the strength and intelligence of this protagonist. Although the sexual (and sexually violent) content makes the book unsuitable for younger teens, it’s still great to have a strong female character that doesn’t need to be saved by men. And thank you, thank you Mr. Kellerman for avoiding the nearly-obligatory kidnapping scene as part of the climax. I have often wondered why exactly so many sleuths, particularly female ones, end up bound, gagged, and in the trunk of a car at some point near the story’s crescendo, and I was heartily glad not to find it here.

In short, fans of Kellerman’s will get their money’s worth and more, whereas those that have never read his work but love a good mystery can dive in here and also be deeply satisfied. Terrific work by one of the best mystery writers out there.