There is no evidence of Jonathan Kellerman's innate writing talent in his new novel Evidence. This is his twenty-fourth story featuring the character of Child Psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and it appears he has gone to this well one time too many. In the past, Delaware has been the center of the story but now he has been relegated to a supporting role for Police Detective Milo Sturgis.
In Evidence, two people are found murdered in a half built mansion in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles. The man is quickly identified as an architect with a local firm but the woman's identity remains a mystery. Milo Sturgis catches the case and arrives on the scene with his friend and adviser Alex Delaware in tow.
As the investigation into the case proceeds it becomes apparent there are eco-terrorists at work. This opens up an entirely new aspect to the case and keeps Sturgis and Delaware hopping to solve it. The longer it takes, the more murders and acts of eco-terrorism occur.
This is a straight by-the-book thriller. The murdered couple is discovered and the police, in the person of Milo Sturgis, track down the killer(s). It is a by-the-book uncovering of the motives and methods until the case is solved. Sturgis is very good at tracking down suspects and also discovering clues as to motive.
Sturgis does not really need Delaware's help in solving this case, so why is he always tagging along? It is difficult to believe that a famed Child Psychologist wouldn't have better things to do with his time than serve as chauffeur, meal planner and confidant to his friend.
Milo Sturgis has certainly developed into a strong character and Kellerman would better serve his readers by having the story be "A Milo Sturgis Book" than "An Alex Delaware Novel." Plus Milo is a police detective so it makes sense for him to get involved in solving crimes. Delaware is a psychologist and crime fighting is not his specialty.
In the earlier Delaware books the plot revolved around persons Delaware encountered in his professional life. His involvement made sense, and Sturgis was used just on the crime side. We also got glimpses of Delaware's personal life. Now the good doctor is just a hanger-on to Sturgis as he goes about his business of solving crimes. It just doesn't ring true.
Kellerman also needs to work on his plots. In Evidence, the step by step solving of the murders is so procedural it borders on boring. Where is the inventiveness that was there at the start of this series? Perhaps twenty four novels centered around the same character is just a few too many.
Here's hoping Kellerman brings Delaware back to center stage in a story that rightfully involves him; or Milo gets a book of his own; or Kellerman gives us a standalone mystery that has a new cast of characters. Any of those alternatives would be an improvement over this last forced plot.
Evidence is published by Ballantine Books. It contains 355 pages and sells for $28.00.