Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Guilt (Alex Delaware, #28)Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A metal box containing bones of an infant is found in an affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles. Dr. Alex Delaware helps Lieutenant Milo Sturgis in his investigations. The bones date to the Fifties but soon other grim events occur and connections with the past are suspected. The plot of Jonathan Kellerman's "Guilt" even allows us to get close to a Hollywood celebrity supercouple, on the scale of Brangelina. The plot is captivating and the denouement is only mildly disappointing. Yet, I have almost been ready to rate the book with two stars. Why?

I have read almost all (26 out of 28) of Jonathan Kellerman's novels featuring Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis, which might be surprising since after the fifth or sixth book in the series I grew quite tired of the protagonists. These days I am totally fed up with them and I try to skip the fragments that illustrate the sheer brilliance of Dr. Delaware's psychological insights and the passages that portray Milo the Overeater. I can't stand the completely flat and paper-thin character of Robin. And the smarmiest of all is the fact that Dr. Delaware is clearly the alter ego of Jonathan Kellerman, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Mr. Kellerman is one clever dude - he wrote 28 novels about how smart he is and received for them the Edgar and Anthony Awards.

So why do I keep reading Mr. Kellerman's books? Two reasons: they are well written and they belong to my favorite mystery genre, where the detective gradually discovers the truth about how the past events have shaped the present through conversations with many people. It may sound similar to "I am reading Playboy for the articles", but in fact I do read Kellerman mainly because of the marginal characters and their stories. Dr. Kellerman's characterizations of these marginal, incidental characters are wonderful, and they reveal the author's knowledge of human psychology more than his continual pointing out how smart he, I mean Dr. Delaware, is.

In certain sense Mr. Kellerman's novels remind me of books written by one of the masters of the mystery genre, Ross Macdonald. Lew Archer was also able to find the truth through discovering the past roots of current events through an arduous and often circuitous process of talking to many people.

In a better world, Dr. Kellerman would kill off Dr. Delaware, Lt. Milo Sturgis, Robin, and Blanche, and write some good standalone novels. He is a capable writer, yet his main characters have long lost any closeness to real, living people - they are pure paper.

A little less than three stars.

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