Killer – Jonathan Kellerman

I’ve read pretty much all Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, although I think I’ve got slightly muddled with the last few – the one word titles makes it hard to remember the order they come in! I remember my son was in nappies, anyway, when a friend started lending me them, and he’s 21 next month. So he’s probably one of the authors I’ve followed for longest.

If you’ve ever read Jonathan Kellerman, you’ll know the drill – Alex (like the author) is a clinical psychologist and is often called on by his best friend, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, to help investigate the more bizarre cases that come across his desk – and there are plenty of them, this being the City of Angels. Milo is something of a black sheep in the department, and tends to work alone, or with Alex. His exceptional clear-up rate means he’s safe in the department, despite being gay – it was in no way as acceptable in the early ’90s as it is now. He also has some dirt on his superiors, which means it would not be a good move for THEM to terminate his employment.

The only other constant characters are Robin, Alex’s long term partner, and their French pug – so you can read any of his novels as a stand-alone, or follow the (now very sizeable) series.

Killer begins with Alex being requested to do a child custody assessment, one of his other jobs. The lawsuit is being brought by Dr Connie Sykes, the sister of Cherie Sykes. Cherie has an infant, Rambla, which she had recently left with Connie while she went on a tour with a band she sings with. This period extended to three months, and once Cherie returned, Connie got a lawyer, accused her sister of being an unfit mother, and so Alex was asked to assess which of the sisters would provide Rambla with the best care.

Unfortunately, Alex’s decision displeases someone, and soon Milo joins the cast, investigating a homicide. Unfortunately, our killer is not content with one victim, and as the body count rises, so does the pressure to find the murderer.

I’ll warrant that there won’t be many out there who’ll lay this book down, delighted that they’d I.D.’d the killer at an early stage – I confess they totally passed me by, and made me question how much, in a whodunnit, a character must appear to be a viable subject. But I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave that question for now.

For the above reasons, this isn’t a classic Jonathan Kellerman, and I wouldn’t recommend it for someone’s first foray into the Delaware/Sturgis series. But hard-core fans will enjoy it, and completists like me will HAVE to tick it off the list. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s not a bad book; by most writer’s standards, it’s fantastic. But by Jonathan Kellerman standards, it’s a wee bit average.

3.5 out of 5 from me.


Hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading, W…W…W…Wednesdays, this is a fun, weekly meme where you answer three simple questions.

1) What have you just finished reading?
2) What are you reading now?
3) What are you going to read next?

My answers for this week are:

1) I’ve finally finished Jonathan Kellerman’s Killer, which has taken me a while to get through, and Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French (ditto!)
But they’re finished now, with reviews to come.

2) I’m currently reading Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary, a bit later than pretty every other blogger on the planet, it must be said. I’ll let you know if I agree with said bloggers, that is, that it’s great.

3) This is the question regular readers know I really struggle with. But I’ve got Val McDermid’s The Skeleton Road, and, having read the first few pages of Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests, I’ll probably have that as my “real” book when the Kindle’s flat and I can’t read Val McDermid. I also MUST start Elly Griffiths’ The Crossing Places, the first in her series, which I’m dying to get into, as I’ve heard really good things about it.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. What have you finished, what are you reading now, and what do you have your eye on for next?

The Killer Next Door – Alex Harwood

This is the second novel by new author, Alex Harwood, following Wicked Girls, although they are both standalones. This one is set in a London suburb, and pretty much all the action takes place in one of those houses that have been sub-divided into bedsits and flats, and is owned by a sleazy, overweight, and smelly landlord called Roy Preece, or, more commonly, The Landlord. There are a number of tenants, the longest surviving being Vesta, who’s stuck there (or has the security of a home, depending on which way you see it) having signed a long term tenancy – this irks The Landlord, as it means he is unable to sell up as profitably as he’d like with a sitting tenant in the basement.

The others are Cher, a 15-year-old Scouser runaway from care, who hustles to get by; Colette, who has a large bag of cash and a big secret; Hossein, an asylum seeker awaiting the result of his application; Gerard Bright, a recently divorced and very quiet music teacher; and Thomas, who appears to be from a slightly more refined background than the rest of the tenants. They really are a mixed bag, especially when you throw in The Landlord.

The novel starts with the news that that Nikki, one of the tenants, has been brutally murdered by someone in the house. Then we fast forward, to just after Nikki’s disappearance. Not keen on losing any rent, Colette is rented her room by The Landlord a couple of weeks after Nikki’s disappeared. Strangely, none of her belongings have been removed. It’s as if she’s vanished into thin air.

I think I wrote in a W…W…W…Wednesdays entry that Alex Harwood’s writing, particularly about London and the area surrounding the house, and of the different characters involved in the plot, reminded me of Ruth Rendell, and that’s high praise indeed, obviously. Harwood clearly knows London, and people, well. But I can’t compare her to the Dame when it comes to plotting, although who can be compared to her?

The last third of the book was – well, let’s just say far-fetched would be understating it. I can suspend belief to a certain extent – most crime fiction novels involve some unlikely coincidence or find – but, after a somewhat bizarre incident two thirds of the way through, the last portion of the book seemed filled with unlikely happening followed by even more unlikely happening. That’s only on reflection, after reading – to be fair to Alex Harwood, at the time I was frantically turning pages, desperate to know how it was all going to pan out.

I’d like to read her first novel, The Wicked Girls, and I’ll certainly read her third. Get her plots a tad more plausible, then with her excellent descriptive powers of people and places, and incredibly natural dialogue, she will be jostling Ruth Rendell on the bestseller lists.

4.5 out of 5.

I’d like to thank Little, Brown Book Group UK for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its publication date, in exchange for a fair review.