Owlcat’s CBRV #7 review of Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman

First, I need to admit that I believe I have read all of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series and usually read them quickly and enjoy them, even those that are less than equal to his usual standards.  In some ways, his novels are my “fluff” reading, a ready escape into a world that is interesting with characters I’ve come to know well and who seldom deviate from my expectations.  Mysteries fascinate me, as does psychology, so these two being intermingled in all of the Alex Delaware series makes these books a good match for me.

Alex Delaware is a retired child psychologist who works as an occasional consultant with the LAPD, teaming up with a gay detective, Milo Sturgis, who has one of the highest case solves within the department and is therefore grudgingly given leeway within the department to approach difficult, and in particular, high profile crimes in a manner he deems necessary, which inevitably involves his calling in Alex Delaware.  In this novel, there are some added aspects to their relationship and to the overall story.

The banter between the two is low-keyed as usual but fun to read.  Alex’s comments to the reader about Milo add to the enjoyment of their relationship, which has nothing to do with Milo’s sexual preference, since Alex is married to a woman and Milo is partnered with an emergency room physician. What was interesting in this book’s relationship between the two was the fact that in the previous book, Alex had saved Milo’s life and they had yet to discuss the ramifications of that event, although Alex is clearly aware that it’s changed Milo’s attitude somewhat toward him and is hoping they can get the emotions and attitudes out into the open.  This does eventually happen, mostly on Milo’s terms, which means a terse appreciation and acceptance, and they’re able to move on, back into their usual realm of a Holmes-Watson-type relationship, more reminiscent these days of the camaraderie we see on TV shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI.”

The story begins with a 60-year old skeleton of an infant being discovered in a backyard of a home in LA.  This sets off a search for the why and how and who that were involved in burying this child there.  As an apparent result of the news around this, there suddenly is another infant skeleton, much more recent, as well as a missing nanny and a dead nanny and a dead male estate manager, all centered around the questionable lifestyle of a mega-star family who may or may not be the perpetrators. This story has a lot of characters who complicate the plot and slow it down a bit in the middle, all of whom are connected and whose relationships make sense at the end.  This story also reveals our presuppositions and biases about super stars and others, as Alex begins to make his own realizations in this area.  His characters, even the more eccentric ones, are interesting and believable, probably because they’re in LA and either directly or indirectly connected with “the industry” there.  There were a few characters earlier in the book who maybe could either have been eliminated from the story line or at least developed in less detail, as they, too, slowed down the plot and began to make it harder to remember who was who doing what.  By the same token, however, they also added more suspects into the mix and a good mystery should do that. Given that, there may have been too many suspects and stories within the story seemed to get a little muddled.

Overall, I was pleased with the book and enjoyed it for the reason I read it, rather like reading a favorite TV show.  I knew what to expect in terms of the characters, and I particularly enjoyed the heavier emphasis on his psychological approach to several of the characters, especially when he realized he had made presumptions before meeting the main suspect that were rapidly dismissed.  I also enjoyed his revelations around his own upbringing that had been alluded to in other books but which had more of an impact on the Alex character in this book because of the similarities he was assuming were there and the ones that actually were.

If you already like Jonathan Kellerman as an author, you will enjoy this book, I think.  If you haven’t read him before, you don’t need to have read the series but it might help if you do, just to clarify the development in his and Milo’s relationship: however, you can enjoy the “whodunit” aspect and the twists and turns of the plot, as well as the characters, both major and minor.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #13: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

Connelly once again hits it out of the park with his latest book in the Harry Bosch series. This American master of the so-called “police procedural” genre doesn’t just give us exciting well-plotted mysteries to solve, but familiar settings, living breathing characters, and a hero whose all-too-human flaws are matched by his “salt of the earth” morality. We want to believe that there is a Harry Bosch out there, ready to protect and serve.

Those of us aficionados of Hieronymous (“Harry”) Bosch who have been advantaged to watch him develop from a rambunctious cop to a seasoned homicide detective, now get to see him evolved once again. Having passed the usual cop retirement age, a 60-something Harry has opted to join a program that allows him to continue with the LAPD on a five-year contract, but without some of the protections that he previously had on the job. And given his propensity for doing his own thing and damn the consequences—and the higher ups who invariably try to stand in his way—he’s going to miss that protection.

Harry is assigned to clearing cold homicide cases and he’s good at it. Unfortunately, his new department head is a political creature who answers to polls and the media, and not so much to his own conscience. As one can imagine, a clash with Harry is inevitable. Twenty years earlier, Bosch had done the initial investigation of one of many murders committed in Los Angeles during the post-Rodney King riots, and had always regretted his inability to solve the inexplicable execution of a young white Danish woman in the midst of a black ghetto riot. In fact, she was a journalist, but all her cameras, film, notes—both on her person and in her hotel room—had gone missing, and something didn’t sit right with Harry’s gut. Two decades later, her “cold” homicide crosses his desk and this time, out of his deeply-rooted commitment to “speak for the dead,” Harry determines to solve it.

With his usual methodical but intuitive method, Harry begins to piece together some evidence, but the solving of a white homicide while hundreds of blacks homicides from the riots remain unsolved is viewed as politically incorrect by the higher ups on this 20th anniversary of the riots, and a nervous police chief warns Harry to delay, or even shelve, the investigation. Harry being warned off a case is like a red flag to a bull, and Harry plunges full steam ahead despite a department investigation of his behavior initiated by his vindictive superior, an investigation which could get him washed out of the force.

Harry’s relationships with his teenaged daughter and with his newest lady friend are tangential to the plot, but Connelly uses these to help clue us in to Harry’s state of mind by revealing his lingering self-doubts about both his single parenting skills, and his worth as a love interest.  Harry’s love for the daughter he never knew he had is particularly beautifully rendered, and her desire to follow in his footsteps and become a cop is a source of both tremendous pride and tremendous nervousness for our hero.

Nonetheless, Connelly devotes his plot primarily to the solving of this single murder, which grows more complex as evidence accumulates pointing to gun smuggling, Desert Storm war crimes, multiple homicides, and more. Bosch does an end-run around all the department eyes on him by taking “vacation” time to pursue his leads, and a cluster of suspects, who prove a lot more deadly than Bosch is prepared for. He, of course, survives and the bad guys get theirs. The victim gets her due, and Harry’s fans can breathe a sigh of relief that Harry is still on the job and kicking ass.