Monday, August 5, 2013

Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman

 It seems as if, as Kellerman continues to write his stories about Alex Delaware and Milo, they turn into more of a police procedural than a thriller. From the moment when a woman discovers the skeleton of an infant, buried in a box in the back yard of the home she has just purchased, Milo and Alex crawl (not leap) into action, interviewing witness after witness, and brainstorm multiple theories about means, motive, and opportunity. It's like there's a contest to see how many red herrings we all get to follow down the path to the inevitable cul de sac, until at last in the final twenty pages or so, all is made clear, the answer revealed. We might begin to get a glimmer of guilt a bit earlier, but it's tough. And yet, if you've followed the duo this far, you know you'll have to hang in there to the bitter end to know how it all turns out.

After the new of the first skeleton leaks out, a possible copycat strikes within days, leaving the bones of another infant, strangely polished, in a local park, and an adult murder victim is found in the park the same night by a jogger. The first infant skeleton is at least fifty years old, while the second there really can't be any connection between the two, can there? This is what Alex and Milo have to find out. Alex, as usual, takes on those delicate tasks requiring perhaps a smidgen of con artistry and finesse, while Milo plays the bumbling police detective, and deals with the political pressures within the police department and city government. After all, it might be bad for real estate values of some of the city councilmen's homes if this sort of thing were allowed to go unsolved.

One nice thing about Kellerman's writing is that he spends a great deal of time and effort actually developing minor characters into believable human beings, complete with rational (or irrational) motivations, and complete backstories. You never feel like you're getting a hodgepodge of cardboard cutout characters with Kellerman; that he's really thought about these people a great deal, and cares enough to write the very best.

An interesting set of puzzles, a few kinks and curls on the way to a solution. Worth staying awake late to finish - which I did.

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