Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Victims (Alex Delaware, #27)Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jonathan Kellerman's "Victims" is the 27th novel in his Alex Delaware series (coincidentally, it was written in 2012, the 27th year since the series had started). 27 books in a series is a ridiculously high number and the repetitiveness of the setup makes it impossible for the author to say anything new about the recurring characters. Apparently, many readers crave familiarity and come back to Alex and Milo for the same old stuff, reheated over and over again, like in TV sitcoms. It took me a while to figure out why I can read essentially the same book twenty something times even if I am tired with Dr. Delaware's and lieutenant Sturgis' shtick, and totally fed up with Robin and some other recurring characters. I just like meeting the supporting cast, which is different in each book, and Mr. Kellerman, a competent writer, is usually able to create interesting supporting characters and portrays them well.

The plot of "Victims" begins when a body of a middle aged woman is found, decorated with a necklace of her own intestines. Further murders with similar signatures occur and Milo and Alex work hard to find the disemboweler and prevent the citizens of Los Angeles from full-blown panic. The plot is quite interesting for the first half of the novel. About mid-book, though, my interest began to wane. As is the case with most mystery writers, Mr. Kellerman is more skillful in setting up the mystery than in providing a satisfactory solution. The coincidences become too convenient, and - what's worse - the mystery begins to unravel mainly through conversations between Alex, Milo, and Petra. Instead of writing about solving the case, the author writes about characters talking about solving the case. It is, admittedly, a well-known (and overused) detective fiction gimmick, yet it takes away the punch, and makes the plot seem theatrical rather than realistic.

Despite Mr. Kellerman's impeccable credentials as a psychologist, I find the ending implausible. The climactic scenes happening in the vicinity of SeaBird Estates have the feel of belonging in a cheap movie rather than in real life. The unfulfilled promise of the premise disappoints. A month from now, I will not remember much about this serial killer procedural written by a prolific serial writer.

Two and a half stars (mostly for a really interesting first half).

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