Novelist Jonathan Kellerman has been on a downhill trend of late. Whereas his books used to be compelling mysteries that had an interesting side story, usually concerning the life of either psychologist Alex Delaware or police detective Milo Sturgis; now they are just crime procedurals. The personal element is missing and that is not a good thing.
Additionally, where the stories used to have Delaware as a central character integral to the plot, now he is just a ride along with Sturgis. He is not there for any good reason other than to make the book an "Alex Delaware novel." Sturgis is there to investigate a crime but Delaware seems only to be there to drive the car and offer moral support.
In this latest novel by Kellerman there is a murder. A substitute teacher at a pricey private school in LA has been found dead in a tub filled with dry ice. She left behind a tape charging three of her co-teachers with sexual harassment. The chief of police wants the criminal investigation to be low key as he does not want to embarrass the school. His son is a student at the school where the dead teacher worked and the Chief wants their help in getting his son into Yale.
The people who were involved with the teacher make for interesting characters but they only flit in and out of the story. They make no lasting impact. Basically the focus is on Sturgis and Delaware and all others are just vague supporting players.
The rest of the book concerns the day to day investigation and the ensuing revelations the crime brings to the fore. There are other murders in the story which are all tied in with the original one. Sturgis eventually solves the murder with Delaware's able but unnecessary help.
It is discouraging to see someone with Kellerman's talent waste it on such by the numbers stories. That is not to say Kellerman isn't a talented writer but he seems to be biding his time with his latest novels waiting for some great story to form in his mind. In the meantime he gives us step by step criminal investigations and fills out the pages with extensive descriptions of the food Milo likes to eat.
Kellerman's fans have been very patient with this author but their patience is wearing thin. He had better come up with something more substantive with his next book or all bets are off.
DECEPTION is published by Ballantine Books. It contains 338 pages and sells for $28.00.
Jackie K. Cooper