I’m a big fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s novels, so when I saw his new one, Victims, on the shelves of a bookshop in Bangkok last week, I purchased it immediately. Back in the States, this novel is only available as a hardcover edition, but luckily here in Bangkok we often get cheaper jumbo-sized “International” paperback editions of recently published novels, and that was the case with the Kellerman book.
Victims is the latest installment in Kellerman’s popular mystery series featuring crime-fighting psychologist Alex Delaware and his Police Lieutenant mentor Milo Sturgis. The blurb on the front cover of the book announces: Alex Delaware is The Crime Reader. On the back cover, you are reminded again: Alex Delaware … is The Crime Reader. Further down the page, you are told about The Crime Reader’s case, and then about The Crime Reader’s Files. Urrrgghh!!! Too much Crime Reader nonsense already! This is the second consecutive novel that I’ve noticed all this Crime Reader crap littering the cover, so naturally I’m curious: just what the hell is The Crime Reader? My hunch is that it might be the title of a new CSI-inspired TV series, or perhaps some marketing wanker’s idea of branding. But there is no evidence of a tie-in with a movie or any TV series, and an online check revealed no additional information about what The Crime Reader might be all about. Weird.
Despite all the The Crime Reader ridiculousness, Victims is another solid addition to Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series. Yeah, he’s got a formula down pat, but it’s an irresistible one. Kellerman’s ability to punch out sparse, sharp dialogue is among the best in modern crime fiction. No wasted words, he just gets to the point. Like Kellerman himself, the Alex Delaware character is a trained psychologist, and is frequently asked to consult the LAPD on particularly troubling murder investigations. Thus, Alex and Milo are always getting involved in some sort of disturbing, bloody mayhem. The psychological insights and speculation about the murders that pepper the pages help make Kellerman’s books all the more intriguing, and the investigative aspect of interviewing witnesses and suspects also keeps the reader involved. Kellerman is a gifted storyteller, and his vivid descriptions of people and places help the reader better visualize the scene. But sometimes those descriptions are so copious and detailed that I find them overwhelming, especially when he gets going about the interior of a room. Perhaps he’s a frustrated interior decorator! Nevertheless, I enjoyed the new book thoroughly, finishing it in less than 48 hours after starting it. Another 300-plus pages of crime fiction bliss.