Tag Archives: Jonathan Kellerman


Marcus Selmer photograph

The wonderful Mirabilis.ca shares a link to information on the Dano-Norwegian photographer Marcus Selmer, who left remarkable images of 19th Century Norwegian peasants.

And Dave Lull passes on news about a planned TV series based on Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis books.

I expect they’ll ruin it by making Milo a militant gay, but the news is interesting anyway.

‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ by Jonathan Kellerman

Heartbreak Hotel

I don’t know how Jonathan Kellerman does it. The premise of his Alex Delaware novels is pretty implausible – child psychologist works as consultant for the L.A. Police Department, and gets closely involved in a long series of homicide cases at the request of his friend, Detective Lt. Milo Sturgis (the least gay homosexual in literature). But not only does Kellerman make it work, he keeps the series fresh and exciting.

In Heartbreak Hotel, Alex receives a call from Thalia Mars, an elderly lady (nearing 100, he learns) who lives in a private cottage at a “hotel” which is actually a recovery facility for cosmetic surgery patients. She offers a high retainer for a little of his time, but he goes to see her mostly out of curiosity. A charming lady, she asks him whether he believes there’s such a thing as a criminal personality. Then she promises to tell him something of her story when he returns the next day.

But there is no second appointment. Overnight Thalia is murdered. Alex calls Milo, and Milo catches the case.

Thalia is a woman of mystery. She has hid her past, and the sources of her wealth, well. But Alex and Milo go to work following clues to old gangland crimes from more than a half century in the past, to thwart a conspiracy of “criminal personalities” who think Thalia owed them something. The climax is shocking, and the anticlimax more shocking still, in its own way.

I loved Heartbreak Hotel. Pure mystery reading pleasure. Highly recommended, with cautions for adult themes and (probably, though I didn’t actually notice) language.

‘Breakdown,’ by Jonathan Kellerman

The big problem with a successful, ongoing fiction series is self-repetition. The template for Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware novels is pretty well established. Dr. Delaware, successful child psychologist, gets a call from his police detective buddy Milo Sturgis (overweight, conservative, and “gay”), who asks him to advise him on some case in progress. Alex happily cooperates, and together they uncover motive, means, and opportunity. (In real life, of course, Alex would never be allowed to meddle in police work that way, and defense lawyers would have a heyday with his involvement. But in the real world both Alex and Milo would be long retired by now, so why mess with success?).

In Breakdown, the latest in the series, author Kellerman jiggers the template a little. This time it’s Alex who asks for Milo’s help in a case of his own. Some years ago, he was called in to consult on the welfare of a child at risk. The little boy’s mother was an actress on a TV sitcom. She had personality disorders, but seemed to be functioning all right as a mother, and Alex found her son highly intelligent but otherwise normal.

Now he gets a call from a mental health worker. The actress, long out of work, has been found living on the streets, psychotic. Her primary psychologist is dead, so Alex is now the health care professional of record on the file. Alex talks to the former actress, being held in a ridiculous government-funded facility (which gives the author a chance to make some pointed comments on our current mental health system). She’s almost completely psychotic now. There seems to be no record that she ever had a child, and Alex, driven by concern and guilt, enlists Milo in trying to uncover the actress’s past, to see what happened to the boy.

What they uncover is a dark family secret and a string of unsolved murders going back decades.

I always enjoy the Alex Delaware books, and this one pleased me particularly. I love cold case stories, and Breakdown was a fascinating one.

‘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.