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on 14 November 2015
This was my first meeting with the child psychologist Alex Delaware, his partner, Robin Castagna [who hardly features], and the Los Angeles homicide detective Milo Sturgis, courtesy of a charity shop purchase. I was primarily attracted by the title.
I found it quite easy to understand the relationships between the main characters despite this being the 26th book in the series. This would mean that on his first appearance, Sturgis, a gay policeman, must have been somewhat ground-breaking.
The book opens with Delaware and Castagna visiting a bar at the soon-to-be- demolished Fauborg Hotel where they have spent many a good evening. However, almost everything has been removed and the old staff have left. In the midst of a rather depressing evening their attention is drawn to a glamorous young woman who is obviously waiting for someone to arrive.
A few days later Milo, a regular visitor the couple’s apartment, arrives after spending the night at a murder site – the victim being shot in the face. When he describes the body, Delaware recognises the clothing and identifies the body as that of the mysterious young woman. In a rather unconvincing manner, Milo then involves Delaware informally in the investigation – surely something that would be challenged at any subsequent trial? This introduction gets the investigation going but at the price of the reader’s credibility.
As the story progresses we learn that the young woman might be called Mystery and an anonymous caller suggests that she is involved in a select on-line dating agency in which young women and matched with ‘sugar daddies’. The agency is operated by the two Agajanian sisters who are amongst the most unconvincing of a caste of two-dimensional figures. These include the sex-sodden family of a billionaire associated with Mystery and, in a somewhat interesting but largely separate story, an ex-patient of Delaware’s who is now dying with cancer and worries about her 6-year old son. The conversations between psychiatrist, patient and son were the most credible in the book – unsurprisingly, given the background of the author.
The book struck me a formulaic – no doubt justified by the author’s success since his first Delaware/Sturgis book was published in 1985, annually thereafter. I will assume that Kellerman has already described the central characters of this book so that he feels little more needs to be done. Elsewhere characterisation seems to be little more than listing clothing, behaviour and attitude. There is little here for the brain to mull over.
One of the great joys of reading series books by the most interesting crime writers is to see the central character and those around him ageing, and to follow their professional and personal relationships. Here there is nothing to identify the age of the characters, whilst Delaware and his partner are not explored. The world of near-pornography at the centre of the story is presumably sanitised for an American audience.
Kellerman’s loyal readers will enjoy this book and but I found it passable but no more than that.