Saturday, March 16, 2013

Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman

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Guilt is Kellerman's best book in quite some time.  I'd long given up on the author and on the series; things had just gotten too graphic, too gross, too judgmental.  In short, Kellerman had gotten lazy, and his prose spoke of too much self-opinion and attitude and not enough mystery and characterization--you know, the reasons you read series like this to begin with.

Finally, he returns here with a book that is more mystery than attitude, more puzzle and who-dun-it than gross-outs and psychos who come out of left field to be the bad guy.  The end result is a winning work that hopefully will remind Kellerman of what he used to write.  Here's to hoping that he produces more like this.

It starts off with a baby's skeleton found deep in the now-exposed roots of a tree in a rich woman's front yard.  Then another baby's skeleton is found.  Then a young woman's--these last two in the same park.  Then more turn up, but by then you know that they're amongst the villains, and the reader will know who did it about 75% to 80% of the way through.  The rest is explanation, proof, and arrest.

But that doesn't spoil the read, which is a good thing, because once again Kellerman uses real-life L.A. types for his work, without bothering too much to hide the real identities for his characters; this is a habit that had grown thin with me, and still does.  But here it works, sort of.  But it's still lazy writing, as the real-life people are the characters and characterizations that he's supposed to work hard to show us on his own.  Instead, there's an obvious Brangelina here, using the real-life couple and their fame, eccentricity and adoptions to substitute for the work that Kellerman should be doing with his writing to supply us with the characters.  By the time it ends, the similarity to the real-life couple has long since entered fiction and separated from the real-life people, but that doesn't disguise the fact that he used them to get us there.

Whatever.  I read the book in two days, so it's an easy and interesting read.  It's free of Kellerman's usual judgments, and, thankfully, the sparring and relationship troubles of Delaware and Robin are long gone--and about time, since they're not the reason we read this stuff, anyway.  Their troubles were like Robert B. Parker's former use of chapters and chapters of describing Spenser's cooking prowess--unnecessary and a disturbing deviation from the plot and storyline.  Give us characters, not forced character traits or character drama.  In other words, story over anything else, always.

That rule was followed here, to everyone's benefit.  Now, when I buy the next one in the series, I won't feel bad as I do so, and I won't have to tell myself that I'm buying it only because I have all the others.

For my reviews of other Jonathan Kellerman books, many Stephen King books, and dozens of others, click on this link to my Goodreads book page.

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