TRUE DETECTIVES is a brilliant novel and may well be Jonathan
Kellerman’s best work to date.
Let’s start with the primary characters. Moses Reed and
Aaron Fox were introduced in 2008’s BONES. Interesting
secondary characters in that book, Kellerman fleshes them out and
gives them living, breathing substance in TRUE DETECTIVES. These
half-brothers are very different from each other. Reed is a flashy,
stylish dresser who is well ahead of the GQ curve and possessed of
an observant eye such that he immediately “gets” Dr.
Alex Delaware’s digs from a once-over of the outside. Fox is
comfortable in undistinguished clothing and is not so much
unstylish as unconcerned. Reed is an extremely successful private
investigator with a quietly A-list clientele and a contact sheet of
equal quality. Fox is an L.A. homicide detective, a de facto
protégé of Milo Sturgis, with a dogged tenacity fueled by
a desire to do well for the sake of the job.
They do not get along. Although Fox is white and Reed is of
mixed race, their racial difference is not the source of their
disagreement, though it would have been easy enough for the author
to go down that route. Kellerman, however, does not take shortcuts
when exploring the fraternal relationship. He makes you believe
that race is not the etiology for the problems between them; it
goes deeper than that. And when Fox and Reed realize that their
respective cases throw them uneasily together, they find that they
have to confront their differences --- and themselves.
But that is only one element that makes TRUE DETECTIVES such a
joy. There is a real plot here, buoyed by Kellerman’s L.A.
triptych tour of the restaurants and attractions of Los Angeles ---
from the boulevards to the side streets and all points in between.
The focal point is a private investigation of a missing person
initiated by Reed at the behest of one of his regular clients, an
enigmatic Russian expatriate who he knows only as Mr. Dmitri. Reed
is retained by Dmitri to investigate the disappearance of Caitlin
Frostig, the adult daughter of one of Dmitri’s accountants.
The job brings Reed into contact with Fox, who was the primary
investigator on the case and who wound up with nothing but dead
ends. The unsolved case grates at Fox, as does his brother’s
interest in it, so the two form an uneasy and occasionally
unwilling alliance to determine the fate of the missing woman.
Caitlin’s boyfriend seems to be a likely suspect, and
their investigation of him soon reveals that he is a gofer for an
almost washed-up actor who has a load of problems, not the least of
which is the company he keeps. When Caitlin’s disappearance
appears to be related to the unsolved murder of a prostitute, Fox
and Reed soon find that their investigation is leading to the
highest echelons of the Hollywood power structure and beyond,
though to places they never could have anticipated.
The aspect of TRUE DETECTIVES that makes it an addicting read is
the manner in which the two brothers work so well together by
virtue of their very separate but compellingly equal ways. It is
their differences that ultimately fit the fruits of the their
labors together, like pieces in a puzzle. And this is very much a
Fox and Reed book, if you will; Sturgis and Delaware make brief, if
important appearances, enough to provide a sense of continuity but
not enough to steal the show from the brothers. Not that they
necessarily could. Fox and Reed may be the most interesting
detective team you will encounter this year, and TRUE DETECTIVES is
the perfect novel to officially launch them. I would be happy to
see more of them, and Dmitri, in the future.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011