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.