Review: Jonathan Kellerman – Victims

Jonathan Kellerman is an author whose books sell in droves around the world. I’ve been reading him for years, since the 1980s I think, and his early books in particular were excellent. As other popular authors have disappeared from my reading (Patricia Cornwall, Lee Child) I’ve kept going with Kellerman as I like the two central characters, psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD lieutenant Milo Sturgis. He’s a ‘comfort read’ and although the books are beginning to be indistinguishable from each other, they still provide the essentials of a good crime story.

There has always been a fair amount of gore in Kellerman’s books but this one in particular was particularly gruesome. Vita Berlin is a malicious and unpleasant woman whose eviscerated remains are found in her apartment. It is the start of a spate of killings where the level of violence shocks even hardened detectives from the LAPD and hints at a level of mental illness from the perpetrator.

A link is discovered with a former state psychiatric hospital where a specialised care unit was set up, a hospital within a hospital, to house the most disturbed patients away from others. It emerges that a patient with a grudge against medical staff is picking off victims to atone for past mistreatment.

The strength of Kellerman’s previous books was his knowledge of psychology, particularly when it relates to disturbed children.  He brings his experiences of working as a clinical psychologist back into this book and the sections where he talks about mental illness amongst young people and inappropriate mistreatments that were administered are well written. The characters slot into their normal roles although this book is more a police procedural than others, as the private lives of the two central characters are kept to a minimum.

Given that this is his 27th book Kellerman has, I think, attempted to return to the roots of his early books with the focus on the psychological. But I found the extremity of the violence unpleasant because it was so excessive. There is a convincing explanation for it and the wounds, I suppose, are not dissimilar to those inflicted by Jack the Ripper in nineteenth century London. I think I found it distasteful because although the shock of the discoveries on the characters is made clear, the plot would have worked equally well without such extreme violence.

The book has also been reviewed at Murder by Type.

14 thoughts on “Review: Jonathan Kellerman – Victims

  1. The only Jonathan Kellerman novel I read, and very recently too, was DR. DEATH and I quite liked the portrayal of Alex Delaware as the psychologist-sleuth. I hope to read more books by Kellerman, a fine writer.

    • Thanks for dropping by Prashant. I enjoyed Dr Death too – I would start with his early books if you want to read some other Alex Delalware novels.

  2. I go on a Jonathan Kellerman kick every few months, and I usually stop when I finish a particularly gruesome one. I just checked my list, and I’m ready for #25 in the series. Have you read any of his son Jesse’s books? I keep on meaning to try them.

  3. I am a long time Kellerman fan & have stuck with him all the way. I thought the books took a bit of a dive probably around 4 or 5 titles ago, but I think Mystery was a return to form, although there’s not so much of the child psychology angle any more. I’m certainly looking forward to reading Victims.

  4. I loved the first half-dozen Kellerman books (could never get along with Faye Kellerman’s, though) – as you point out, mainly due to the child psychologist role, eg when Alex had the job with the courts to help in child custody or adoption cases. I have given up on them a good while back because they got too dumbed down and formulaic. I was persuaded to try one a couple of years ago by someone who raved about it but I hated it. As you write, they all seem same-y. I think I’ll pass on this one, even though it is good to know Alex is returning to his psychology roots, I can do without explicit and horrific violence.

    • I read a good Faye Kellerman set in WW2 Germany that I really enjoyed. JK’s books do have a formulaic feel to them which I don’t always mind but as you say the gore is pretty unpalatable.

  5. I have enjoyed both Jonathon and Faye Kellermans series, though I think I m two behind in both of them at the moment – I must catch up!

    • I’ve not taken to Faye Kellerman in the same way but the one book I read I did enjoy. Perhaps I need to get to the library to see what she is writing now.

  6. Pingback: The Best of March’s Reading. « crimepieces

  7. Pingback: Jonathan Kellerman : Victims

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