Killer is the latest in this long-running series about child psychologist Alex Delaware, who together with his complex detective buddy Milo Sturgis, gets repeatedly embroiled in murder mysteries which Delaware’s professional insights and his friend’s finely-honed cop instincts always manage to resolve.
This time, Kellerman uses the clever technique of exposing the villain right at the very beginning of his novel, when the rich and brilliant sociopath Constance Sykes threatens to kill Delaware for causing her to lose an already-doomed custody battle for her baby niece against her “loser” sister Cherie. Delaware would like to think it was just a venting by the coldblooded Sykes, but then he learns that she has hired a hitman and all bets are off. The story is off to a rousing start – until Sykes is, shall we say, no longer in the picture!
But with Kellerman, who manages to infuse his fast-paced writing style with realistic dialogue and a lively wit that had me laughing at his colorful character descriptions and wincing at his gruesome crime-scene descriptions in equal turns, there’s always a surprise in waiting, and sometimes more than one bad guy to hunt down. And it takes a lot of wrong turns, second-guessing, and many pages before the “who-dun-it” gets well and truly solved. And even then Kellerman reserves another punch to the gut for his faithful readers, who can’t help coming back for more. Because what could be more satisfying in a murder mystery than complex plots, edge-of-your-seat chase scenes, well-drawn villains and multiple surprises.
What I enjoy most about Kellerman’s Delaware novels is that he infuses his stories with a deep humanity. His hero truly cares about people and operates on the basis of a strong ethical code which clearly reflects Kellerman’s own intolerance for the flaws and hypocrisies of the systems he has to work with—whether in education, justice, law enforcement, the medical and mental health professions … and even the fanatic fringes of religious fundamentalism.
If I have any quibble with this well-written and satisfying novel, it is with a title which is stunningly uninspired. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.