An Alex Delaware novel
A good plot, a fast-paced mystery
You can count on Jonathan Kellerman to serve up a well-plotted mystery, with a disparate cast of intriguing, usually troubled characters, a fast pace and a logical conclusion. Any reader of mysteries probably knows that Kellerman has written enough mysteries/thrillers/psychological novels that he should be able to write them in his sleep. Or from a formula. Or maybe hire a co-writer. All of the above have been done by authors who have large readerships. Sometimes those do get to feeling a bit formulaic to me.
Not Kellerman. Every time I read a Kellerman novel that features familiar characters, both book and characters seem fresh and to have been written with the same intensity and enthusiasm for the work as if it were his first. Each of his main characters stays the same yet is different with each book. I don’t enjoy every plot equally, of course, but I’ve not yet read a Kellerman that bores me. (I haven’t read every one, I admit.)
That said, let me get to the meat of this review of Alex Delaware’s latest adventure. Mystery appeared on shelves this spring, and although I haven’t researched sales, I would assume it is, as they say, flying off the shelves. Or, as they might also say, clogging up the ether with all the downloads.
So here goes.
A dying hotel, a lovely, lonely woman
Alex Delaware and Robin Castagna, his guitar-creating partner in love and life, go out for an evening of nostalgia, celebrating the final moments of a once-grand, about-to-be-torn-down L.A. hotel, the Fauberg. Alex and Robin have fond memories of this place, fond memories which will soon be replaced by the ugliness of murder most foul.
There are a few others present to say goodbye to the hotel, most of whom are of mature years, with the exception of a lovely young woman seated alone at a nearby table. She is dressed in white and frequently glances at a sparkling diamond watch. She reminds Alex and Robin of someone, someone they know they’ve seen before, although they can’t recall the name. She appears to be waiting for someone.
A victim, unknown but familiar
The next time Alex sees this young woman is in a photo downloaded from the cellphone of Alex’s best friend and frequent partner in solving crimes, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, a gay LAPD homicide detective. Alex knows it’s the young woman he saw last evening at the restaurant only by her clothing; her face was, as Kellerman chose to describe it, “a clotted horror.” Once again, Alex and Milo will team up.
Kellerman, as he typically does with Alex and Milo, puts the two through a labyrinthine web of clues, impossibilities and probabilities, red herrings, strange and dangerous people and situations, witnesses who remember nothing, or the wrong thing—well, I could go on and on, because Mystery has a full measure of Kellerman’s particular take on murder and mayhem. And because he has placed Alex and Milo in Los Angeles, there is no shortage of provocative characters to throw into the mix, artists, pornographers, would-be actors and actresses, prostitutes, many who aren’t what they purport to be.
First question: Who is this mutilated young woman?
In this as in any murder investigation, the ultimate goal is to locate and collar a murderer. In this particular one, there is an initial question that needs an answer before “who did it.” Who is it? Who is this mutilated young woman, dubbed “Princess” for want of a real name?
As Alex and Milo pick up on clues and interview people who may or may not be directly connected to Princess, they learn the identity of their victim. But that adds to the complexity of the case; Princess is known by more than one name. And each of the names leads to a different facet of the case and sends the investigation on another tack.
Alex continues to wonder. Why did she look so familiar to him and Robin, when none of her names means anything to either of them? (The answer to this question, when it comes, is surprising but logical.)
Technology, murder and mayhem
Kellerman, to be believable as a writer of police procedurals, keeps his work up-to-date regarding the technology used in scene-of-crime work, autopsies, blood studies, fingerprint identification and the many and varied scientific approaches that are available to modern police investigators.
In Mystery, Kellerman also includes a bit of the kinds of technologies that are available to anyone with a computer. Many readers will be interested in the online-dating-site elements of the tale, which add interest to the story. Even if readers have never thought of using one of these services, they’ll surely have seen the sites’ ubiquitous TV ads. And the vast majority of readers will have used the Internet for something—be it just surfing, playing games, buying and selling things, reading online or downloading books or magazines, tweeting, whatever.
There are a great deal of ins and outs and ups and downs in this novel, enough to keep readers reading. It’s challenging at times to follow the conversations between Alex and Milo and other characters. The recurring characters, Alex, Milo, Robin, and Milo’s partner Rick, who appears now and then in the story, are all good friends, comfortable with each other, used to working together, and their chit chat over lunch or a beer reflects that.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I recommend Mystery. Another fine Jonathon Kellerman story.