Review

The Conspiracy Club

by Jonathan Kellerman

The
first Jonathan Kellerman book I ever read did not feature Alex
Delaware. It was a novel titled THE BUTCHER'S THEATER, and though I
read it almost 15 years ago, I can still remember passages of that
book as if I had read them yesterday. I've read almost all of
Kellerman's fiction since that time, including every Delaware
novel, so I approached THE CONSPIRACY CLUB with some mixed
feelings. I was slightly disappointed that this was not going to be
another Delaware novel. But Kellerman's work, whether it involves
Delaware or not, is so uniformly excellent that a deviation from
his normal characterization would almost certainly be
interesting.

Now, having spent a day or so reading THE CONSPIRACY CLUB, I can
tell those of you who are diehard Delaware fans that, if you skip
this excellent novel because Alex Delaware is not in it, you are
cheating yourself. And if you're not already a fan of Kellerman,
THE CONSPIRACY CLUB is the key to becoming one. Notwithstanding my
familiarity with Kellerman's work, I felt as if I was discovering a
debut novel by a new author who had studied at the feet of the
masters and was channeling them.

The book is excellent in every way. The characters are
unforgettable, the dialogue is witty when it should be and dark
when appropriate. The plotting is so intelligent yet
straightforward that you'll walk away from this great novel feeling
smarter than you did when you first picked it up.

THE CONSPIRACY CLUB introduces Dr. Jeremy Carrier, a young staff
psychologist at City Central Hospital in an unnamed Midwest city.
Carrier is carrying around a boatload of grief since his passionate
but all-too brief affair with a nurse named Jocelyn Banks was
abruptly ended by her kidnapping and brutal murder. Carrier was
initially a suspect in Banks's unsolved slaying, and Detective Bob
Doresh has a disconcerting habit of popping into the hospital at
odd times to ask Carrier off-kilter questions, just to let Carrier
know that he's still under the magnifying glass. When another woman
is murdered in an eerily and similarly grisly fashion, Doresh seems
to be taking more than a polite interest in Carrier, a circumstance
that creates even more sorrow and confusion for him. This is
counterbalanced --- barely --- by Carrier's slowly developing
relationship with Angela Rios, a hospital resident whose slow but
sure emotional succor seems to put him on the road to
recovery.

At the same time, an elderly, somewhat eccentric physician named
Dr. Arthur Chess begins to take a gently incessant interest in
Carrier. This interest culminates with Chess inviting Carrier to a
mysterious late night formal supper. Chess and the other four
guests, all individuals of wildly disparate backgrounds, treat
Carrier well. He cannot help but feel, however, that he is there
more to be observed and evaluated than anything else.

Almost simultaneously Carrier begins to receive a mysterious series
of seemingly unconnected articles and messages through the hospital
mailing system, correspondences that seem to be aiming him toward
the identity of the true murderer of Banks and the other women.
Kellerman, already a master of the suspense novel, takes the genre
to new places here. Carrier is an empathetic psychologist, a master
at sharing emotion with his patients, but he is not a detective. He
lurches, in fits and starts, toward the true identity of the
murderer, who is set to strike someone close to Carrier once
again.

Carrier is a highly believable character. He is capable of giving
comfort to his patients, even to those who seem unreachable, but is
slow to accept and receive such comfort himself. Kellerman's
account of Carrier's initial encounters with Rios is absolutely
first-rate. What is even more remarkable, however, is Kellerman's
ability to infuse his novels, and particularly this one, with
realistic minor characters, who sometimes enter and exit within the
space of a single page. One such character is a woman whom Carrier
encounters while she is sweeping out a vacated bookstore in a
building that is scheduled for demolition. The dialogue between the
two characters goes on but for a few sentences, yet the woman's
portrayal, primarily conveyed through her comments regarding her
own behavior, is perfect. A character like this is not the stuff of
literature so much as she is the essence of life. Even if her
actions make no logical sense to her, the reader understands them
immediately.

Carrier certainly has the potential to be an ongoing, sustaining
character. He is too good a character to limit to one novel, even
one as fine as THE CONSPIRACY CLUB.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

The Conspiracy Club
by Jonathan Kellerman

  • Publication Date: November 23, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345452585
  • ISBN-13: 9780345452580