Mystery – Jonathan Kellerman

”Like a con man on the run, LA buries its past.

Maybe that’s why no one argued when the sentence came down: The Fauborg had to die.

I live in a company town where the product is illusion. In the alternate universe ruled by sociopaths who make movies, communication mean snappy dialogue, the scalpel trumps genetics, and permanence is mortal sin because it slows down the shoot.

LA used to have more Victorian mansions than San Francisco but LA called in the wrecking ball and all that handwork gave way to thirties bungalows that yielded to fifties dingbats, which were vanquished, in turn, by big-box adult dormitories with walls a toddler can put a fist through.

Preservationists try to stem the erosion but end up fighting for the likes of gas stations and ticky-tack motels. Money changes hands, zoning laws are finessed, and masterpieces like the Ambassador Hotel dissolve like wrinkles shot with Botox.”

Mystery, Jonathan Kellerman, p. 1

When I read the first page of “Mystery” I thought:

“WOW!”

And read it again. If I were ever fortunate enough to teach a creative writing course (that would be after a couple of books on the bestseller lists), this is the example I would use as to how successful a first page can be. It is eloquent, to the point, punchy, and so telling as to the atmosphere of “Mystery’s” LA. I would probably even use the word genius. Go ahead, read it again – savoring it this time.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the first page and the punch of the language dissipates on page two onwards with momentary exceptions. Admittedly, my expectations were high, but “Mystery” loses atmospheric momentum to the typical crime novel plotline with the main characters Alex Delaware, the crime reader, and Lieutenant Milo Sturgis of the LAPD running – in this case driving – all over town interviewing people and gathering evidence, until – lo and behold – Alex Delaware theatrically solves the crime. Throughout the novel, Alex Delaware is an observer and narrator, but in my opinion, he is not as interesting as the many people surrounding him are.

Case in point Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, who in a novel by a lesser author, would have been quite stereotypical as the LA detective with a cloudy past, but loyal and righteous nonetheless, is amazingly original. My perception of him is much clearer than it is of Alex Delaware – and I would even go so far as to say, my sympathy is with Milo more so than with Alex. I feel the same way about Alex’ wife, Robin.

Jonathan Kellerman is an accomplished author with an astounding 30 Alex Delaware books under his belt – and he has written more than that. Oh, and he is a pediatric psychologist and the father of four. Suddenly, single mother with a law degree, who forgets to water her plants, does not sound like much. “Mystery” is one of the latest Alex Delaware books – and the only one I have read. When I hear of series like this, I am always suspicious of that tired point in time for the writer, when he or she loses the enthusiasm for their protagonist and writes for bread and butter, but “Mystery” is clearly above the crowd. Jonathan Kellerman still writes fresh and packs a literary punch.

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