‘The Murderer’s Daughter,’ by Jonathan Kellerman

Tragic; could you blame a boy for going bad? You sure could. Turning the tale over and over, Grace found herself growing steely. She knew all about rejection and loss, deep wounds of the soul that required psychic excavation and cauterization, the acid wash of self-examination. Life could be a horror. No excuse.

It occurred me after I finished reading Jonathan Kellerman’s The Murderer’s Daughter that the heroine could be described as a sort of American version of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, main character of his “The Girl” novels, but without the annoying Marxist themes. I’m OK with that. Grace Blades is a vivid character. I generally avoid novels with female protagonists because I can’t identify with them, but I was all in for Grace from the first paragraph.

Grace Blades (isn’t that a great name?) is a genius, off the charts, and a world-renowned clinical psychologist. She is especially famous for her successful work with trauma victims. Yet oddly, her own psychological world is rather barren.

Grace was born to a neglectful, abusive home, and orphaned at an early age. After that she entered the foster care system, until she found a loving home with a couple who cared for her and nurtured her intellectual gifts. Since their deaths, Grace has kept other people at a distance, confining her sex life to occasional anonymous encounters with strangers.

But one day she opens her office door to a new patient, and sees before her a man she had a tryst with just the night before. She tries to salvage the session, but the man flees at last, hinting at family guilt and something about atonement.

Soon Grace learns that this man was not in fact a stranger at all, but a fellow witness to the most traumatic event of her life. And now Grace is in danger from the person that man feared.

Grace does not take danger passively. Her rule is to go on the offensive. And so she does.

The Murderer’s Daughter is quite unlike Kellerman’s Alex Delaware novels. Alex is well-adjusted, and has a productive relationship with the police. Grace Blades is more like Batman, a law unto herself, a genius with fighting skills who takes the law into her own hands.

Morally, I disapprove. As a reader, I loved this book. Cautions for language, sex, and violence.

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