Author Kellerman gives us a slowly-unravelling psychological thriller in Victims, featuring his usual “dynamic duo” child psychiatrist and police consultant Alex Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis. In this case, a murder involving surgical disembowelment, followed shortly thereafter by the same ritualistic disemboweling of another victim. The first victim is a nasty piece of work who no one liked, and the second a mild-mannered beloved husband, with no apparent link between the two victims. Milo and Alex are floundering when victims three and four follow in short order, a wealthy doctor couple. Still no links, and no DNA.
Okay, that’s what I meant by “slowly unravelling.” An occasional witness appears, but has nothing but the blandest of descriptions. Dogs disappear with their victim owners, but never reappear. Police superiors under political pressure to see the cases solved take it out on poor Milo, as usual. Finally, in steps Alex with his acute shrink insights and a lucky coincidence from his own training past that enables him to start piecing together the puzzle. Our bad guy is a former mental patient with a scary history dating back from childhood, and is now out and on the prowl. But a big surprise awaits us, if you have the patience to stick with it.
The story, when it emerges, is a profoundly disturbing one. It goes to the heart not only of the history of mental treatment in our country, but the abuses within the medical and mental health community as a whole. Kellerman clearly came up with a winning combination with his two main characters Milo and Alex, which have enabled him to spawn a huge number of highly successful thrillers. Milo finds the cases, Alex provides the psychological underpinnings that not only make the cases interesting but give the reader the requisite thrills and chills to realize how much mental illness surrounds us all the time, and Milo closes the cases. The case is ultimately closed in Victims, but questions remain … for Alex Delaware, at least.