Victims, by Jonathan Kellerman

Vita Berlin was the nastiest woman in the neighborhood. She complained about everything, was rude to everyone, and pushed people around at the first sign of weakness. Still – as even the father of a child with cancer, whom she’d publicly berated, admits – nobody deserves to have their neck broken and be disemboweled in their own apartment.

So begins Victims, another in Jonathan Kellerman’s long-running Alex Delaware mystery series. Alex is a child psychologist, but long ago he became Detective Lt. Milo Sturgis’ go-to expert whenever a psycho murder shows up. Which this most definitely is, because it’s soon followed by the murders of a mild-mannered accountant, a young married couple, and a homeless man, all killed and mutilated in about the same way. No connection between the victims seems apparent.

There are similar themes here to Michael Connelly’s recent book, The Drop, which I reviewed the other day. Both stories deal with the question of evil, and how it comes to exist in human beings. There’s no answer to that question in this world, of course (and even in theology we’re left with a lot unanswered), but there’s plenty of room for both empathy and a sense of justice, though they sometimes have to wrestle each other. Victims ended on an unusually downbeat note, but it was entirely appropriate, and (I thought) rather moving.

Highly recommended, with the usual cautions for language and adult subject matter.

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