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Customer Review

on 21 August 2005
Milk and Honey," the third in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novels, proves to be as good a read as "Day of Atonement," my first venture into Faye Kellerman's excellent mystery/sleuth series. This is a stand-alone novel, and one can easily get to know the cast of characters and their history without having read the prior books. Ms. Kellerman's Decker/Lazarus novels are a terrific change of pace from my usual fiction reading. Although these have their share of violence, gruesomeness and unsavory individuals, the ethnic/cultural aspect of the stories and the sheer humanity of the characters are refreshing.
Peter Decker, a detective with the Los Angeles police, is still courting Rina Lazarus, an Orthodoz Jewish widow and the mother of two small sons. Raised a Baptist, Peter is studying with Rabbi Aaron Schulman to become a Jew, but at times has doubts about the course he has chosen. He and Rina are very much in love. Apart from her beauty, outside and in, Decker is drawn to her total lack of guile. Rina, who in no way wants to pressure him, needs to find out how committed her finance is to their relationship and to becoming an observant religious man. She has taken her boys back east, to visit with her ex in-laws in Brooklyn.
Late one night, thinking of Rina thousands of miles away, Peter is unable to sleep and takes a drive into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. He finds an adorable toddler wandering around by herself in the early morning hours. After checking with people in the near-by housing complex, he determines the child to be lost or abandoned. When he gets her into the light, Decker discovers she is wearing blood-soaked pajamas and is covered in bee stings. He is concerned that something has happened to the little girl's parent(s) or guardian, since the blood does not seem to be her own. He feels for the bewildered child and is determined to find her family. His partner, Marge Dunn, places their small charge in foster care while they look for the relatives. Their search is relatively short, but what they find will lead them into a long and horrific investigation concerning a family feud turned violent, an overabundance of passion and death. No spoilers here!!
Meanwhile, Abel Atwater. an old buddy from his Vietnam War days appears in need of help. Atwater lost a leg and some of his sanity in the war. Now it appears he has been charged with the rape and mutilation of a prostitute. He swears he is innocent. Peter has some doubts.
The author deftly handles the workings of various intense personal relationships and solving multiple crimes with apparent ease. As with the other Kellerman book I read, her characters are her strength. They are truly three-dimensional and their dialogue is extremely realistic - at times just plain funny, at others quite moving. Her mysteries are solid. No loose threads are left behind. I plan on reading more of this excellent author's work and highly recommend it to others.
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