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.