Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel, by Jonathan Kellerman

Unraveling the madness behind L.A.'s most baffling and brutal homicides is what sleuthing psychologist Alex Delaware does best.  And putting the good doctor through his thrilling paces is what mystery fiction's #1 bestselling master of psychological suspense Jonathan Kellerman does with incomparable brilliance.  Kellerman's universally acclaimed novels blend the addictive rhythms of the classic police procedural with chilling glimpses into the darkest depths of the human condition.  For the compelling proof, look no further than Victims.

Kellerman at his razor-sharp, harrowing finest.  Not since Jack the Ripper terrorized the London slums has there been such a gruesome crime scene.  By all accounts, acid-tongued Vita Berlin hadn't a friend in the world, but whom did she cross so badly as to end up arranged in such a grotesque tableau?  One look at her apartment-turned-charnel house prompts hard-bitten LAPD detective Milo Sturgis to summon his go-to expert in hunting homicidal maniacs, Alex Delaware.  But despite his finely honed skills, even Alex is stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion . . . yet with no apparent connection among the victims.  And the only clue left behind-a blank page bearing a question mark-seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges.  Under pressure to end the bloody spree and prevent a citywide panic, Milo redoubles his efforts to discover a link between the disparate victims.

Meanwhile, Alex navigates the secretive world of mental health treatment, from the sleek office of a Beverly Hills therapist to a shuttered mental institution where he once honed his craft-and where an unholy alliance between the mad and the monstrous may have been sealed in blood.  As each jagged piece of the puzzle fits into place, an ever more horrific portrait emerges of a sinister mind at its most unimaginable-and an evil soul at its most unspeakable.  This one was different, Alex observes at the start of the case.  This one will haunt his waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.

Delaware’s insight is borne out when a second person is found, murdered by a similar method and accompanied by a similar message.  This victim is almost the polar opposite of the first: married, male, pleasant, kind and non-confrontational.  Further, there appears to be no connection whatsoever between the two.  Sturgis and Delaware slowly begin to reach the frightening conclusion that the killer simply picks victims at random, motivated more by opportunity than by any other particular factor.  Sturgis comes under increasing pressure to close the case as the dead bodies begin to pile up.  Delaware picks up what appears to be a minor evidentiary thread and follows it into a past that, in turn, takes him back to a chapter of his own history.

The unlikely partners gradually close in on the killer, making a series of chilling and unsettling discoveries that have lain buried for too long.  By the end of the book, a line has been crossed for both men, one that may well have repercussions in future novels for one or both of them.

Victims is far more than an entertainment designed to fill several hours; it is one of those books that keeps the reader brooding and thinking for a good long while.  The situations and characters, both good and bad, will stay with you, as will the underlying theme of the book concerning the effect that actions have upon the world long after they have been committed.  Whether indifferently callous and cruel, or randomly and offhandedly kind, actions have consequences, both for those who commit them and for those who are the recipients.  And then there are the actions that seemingly have no cause at all.  Victims will keep you up at night, wondering and thinking.

I have read Kellerman's Alex Delaware series since the very first book When the Bough Breaks was published over 25 years ago (actually I've read all his books except his non-fiction).  In the beginning he was probably one of my Top 10 favorite writers.  Over the last few years, though, the spark seemed to have almost died out of his writing.

Well, it's back! I enjoyed Victims.  It was almost like meeting old friends again. Milo and Alex are back.

While the plot line wasn't a totally original one, Kellerman handled the story with aplomb, building the suspense, dropping clues, peeking inside the minds of monsters - which is really what he does so well.

The story was believable, even though horrifying.  We didn't have to spend half a book reading about Alex's marriage problems or Milo's many idiosyncrasies.  We got to read about the crimes, the psychology behind them, and the solving of said crimes.

Media Reviews

In the latest Alex Delaware novel, solving a series of murders requires putting together a particularly difficult jigsaw puzzle. What do several seemingly unconnected victims have in common? As psychologist Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis struggle to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the body count keeps growing: a nasty, friendless woman; an accountant; a married couple; a homeless man. Clues are hard to come by, and even when Delaware begins to get a glimpse of the big picture, it's fuzzy, the killer's identity hidden, perhaps forever, in the shadows of history. The first Delaware novel, When the Bough Breaks, was published in 1985, but Kellerman has kept the series from devolving into mere formula by finding new variations on the psychological-forensic-thriller format. This one is presented as a procedural, and, as with Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels, it's the step-by-step process of the investigation that keeps us turning the pages. In the long-running Delaware series, this one is in the top tier. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Kellerman's books have sold more than 40 million copies; he has had three number-one New York Times best-sellers; and his Alex Delaware novels have won both Edgar and Anthony Awards. Now that's a track record.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

In Edgar-winner Kellerman’s less than compelling 27th Alex Delaware novel (after 2011’s Mystery), the child psychologist/police consultant and his LAPD homicide detective pal, Lt. Milo Sturgis, look into the possibly ritualistic murder of 56-year-old Vita Berlin, whose mutilated body was found lying on some towels in her apartment. An odd note left in a pizza box is about the only clue. When another body turns up similarly butchered and more follow, it’s enough to put even the food-loving Milo off his feed. At Milo’s request, Alex talks to Berlin’s psychologist in the hope of getting some insight into the difficult, self-righteous woman. Trying to figure out the tortuous link between killer and victims takes Alex back to his days as a young psychology intern and his supervisor, “a former research assistant to Anna Freud during the London years.” Too many plot contrivances make this one of Kellerman’s weaker efforts, but the usual effective interplay between Alex and Milo should satisfy series fans. -- Publisher's Weekly

About The Author

Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live in California, New Mexico, and New York.

Click here to visit Kellerman's official website.