Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #50: Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

Another in a long line of Alex Delaware novels, in which the child psychologist offers his (usually crime-solving) insights as an occasionally-paid consultant to the LAPD, and in particular to his friend Detective Milo Sturgis. The sometimes humorous/sometimes poignant relationship between Kellerman’s lead characters Delaware and Sturgis is alone sufficient to keep most Kellerman fans coming back year after year and book after book, and Kellerman’s handling of dialogue with authenticity and often snappy wit is a big plus for me, but this time, the plot –despite a number of unexplained holes in it—proved a draw as well.

We are introduced right away to the handiwork of a monster, a disemboweled corpse with the intestines looped around the victim’s neck. We soon discover that the victim was an aggressively abrasive alcoholic loner and our sympathy level ratchets down a notch, only to shoot up when the next victim is discovered to be the quintessential nice guy. Adding to the horror, the second victim’s dumb but loveable Golden Retriever is missing and presumed killed as well. More victims start popping up, all apparently randomly chosen and yet evidently stalked and targeted by the killer. Detective Sturgis does a lot of plodding police footwork throughout the first half of the book that gets him nowhere except in trouble with his superiors for his lack of progress, while Dr. Delaware –with a little help from his love interest Robin–throws in a few professional zingers which keeps the crime-solving moving ahead.

Delaware was more of an enigma to me in this book, functioning less like a real flesh-and-blood character and rather more like a rather bland mouthpiece for solving the mystery. In fact, for me, it was the secondary characters that really made this book hum. Kellerman brilliantly introduces us to a large number of people who are portrayed in all their flawed humanity—the shell-shocked wife of one victim who clings to Sturgis for consolation, the enraged father of a dying child who wants to strike out at the world, the former clinic administrator who in his declining years cannot shed enough possessions to assuage his guilty conscience, the long-estranged son of a homeless victim, and so on.  Kellerman is masterful at peopling his stories with the real thing, and not just black hats and white hats, and it’s one of the things I enjoy about his books.

The plot meanders a good deal, and it’s not until well into the book that our detective and his pal start to connect the killer to a psychiatric facility which was shut down and dismantled many years earlier, but which had a common thread with one or more of the victims. At this point, the pace accelerates, the killer’s identity coalesces and the melodramatic climax ensues. At the end, soulfull looks are exchanged between Sturgis and Delaware which left me scratching my head in confusion. Nonetheless, a page-turner with many good things to recommend it.

One aspect of the novel that bears noting is that I think Kellerman chose Victims to make a strongly personal statement about the insidious nature of today’s health insurance industry, and it comes through loud and clear. I couldn’t have agreed more.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #6: The President of Vice: The Autobiography of Joe Biden by the Onion (A Kindle Single)


I had to buy it and read it. I love the Onion and I have been immensely entertained by the Biden pieces. This is short (just over 100 pages), cheap ($2.99), and hilarious. I don’t know why exactly this image of Biden as a  party animal, chasing the perfect high and women, is so funny to me. It’s funnier than Cheney as Darth Vader or Gore as a droning nerd (maybe those two are a little too close to reality). It’s totally ridiculous and imaging Biden saying and doing the things written here is just funny beyond words to me. If you find the Onion offensive or don’t think the Biden stuff is comedy gold, then don’t waste your time. And I feel sorry for you.

The “plot” is that “Uncle Joe”/”Diamond Joe” Biden (he likes to refer to himself in the third person and provides a list of all of his nicknames) has lost his beloved Trans Am to a couple of thugs because he hasn’t paid off a gambling debt. To get the “scratch” he needs to pay of the debt and get the Zam back, Joe writes his story — a hazy, boozed up, drug addled trip through his early years in Scranton, the move to Delaware and taking up politics (a living but not the best job he ever had. That would be his busboy job at the Montero Beach Country Club in March of ’82). Some other jobs the Bidenator had were male model for a Sears insert, working carnivals and state fairs, occasional roadie work, dry walling and selling knives, which he still does. “…[J]ust last week I sold thirty clams worth of steak knives to Vladimir Putin. I don’t care how rich this book makes me, I’m always going to sell knives, cuz there’s always good money in fine cutlery.”

Some of Joe’s friends are Blaze, Fat Gary and William Rehnquist (“Rest in peace Rehnquist, you glorious bastard”). He also talks about about his coworker Barack, “this Filipino guy at my office” whose wife is “this smoking hot personal trainer chick, Michelle.” There are numerous passages in the book that made me laugh out loud, although since I have family who might read this, I won’t quote some of the raunchier ones. References to other politicians are thrown in at unexpected points, such as the very long list of babes that Uncle Joe invited to the back seat of his Trans Am in the summer of ’87, the Summer to End All Summers (“…the doobage was dank, the babeage was bodacious, and the tuneage featured bad-ass shredding….”). He also has this to say about Strom Thurmond: “Anything touched by Strom Thurmond was a no man’s land. That dude was an STD piñata….” And the reason he opposed Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court had to do with the softball games between the Senate and Supreme Court teams. Bork “was one helluva shortstop. Plus, I didn’t care for the way he treated lady’s rights.”

There’s nothing edifying about this book. It doesn’t reveal any deep truths about politics and has little if anything to do with the real Joe Biden. But it’s funny.