Monday, February 20, 2012

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

I've long enjoyed the writings of Jonathan Kellerman, and his wife, Faye. Getting to hang out with Alex Delaware and his pal, Milo, or Peter Decker, is always a rare pleasure. Kellerman continues the usual fun with the latest novel, true to form.

When one of Alex and Robin's favorite watering holes, the Fauborg Hotel, closes down after its new owners lose interest, they get all gussied up for one last hurrah there. Unfortunately, the usual employees have already been paid off, and the temporary help doesn't have the zeal for quality to which our friends have become accustomed, but while they are there they observe a young woman, whom they assume to be some sort of minor celebrity because of her behavior and the presence of a man who looks like a bodyguard outside the hotel, being stood up. When Milo visits them later and they find out that the woman's body has been discovered, a victim of a brutal murder, in Topanga Canyon, Alex has all the justification he needs (though we know from experience he needs very little) to become deeply enmeshed in Milo's investigation.

The trail leads to a very successful Internet dating service, run by Armenian immigrants, which connects rich sugar daddies with young, beautiful women who are "searching for their soulmates". It seems to hit a dead end shortly after that when it turns out that the woman's last "daddy" died over a year ago due to natural causes. So Milo and Alex pursue an alternate course investigating the "bodyguard", who has a bit of a shady history.

There's a second plot thread, in which Alex consults with a former "Hollywood Madam" who has terminal lung cancer about helping her young son to deal with her impending death. It provides a bit of distraction from the main investigation, and the minor clues that she provides for Alex and Milo don't really contribute all that much. I wonder if it was included just so Kellerman, a clinical psychologist, can sprinkle a little shrink lore into the story.

The identity of the murderer was fairly obvious to me in the early going, but Kellerman does a good job of suspensefully dragging out the solution for our two heroes. I'd rank this mystery about average in the Kellerman canon.

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