Review

Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel

by Jonathan Kellerman

I get a little tongue-tied with uninitiated friends when I
attempt to describe Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware/Milo
Sturgis novels. I’m not sure why that’s so. It’s
impossible to exaggerate how quietly brilliant this series has
been. No matter what I say (or even write), I don’t feel like
I’m doing Kellerman or his books true justice. Let me try
once again.

Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are an odd couple. For those not
familiar with the series, Delaware is a psychologist in private
practice who is occasionally called upon by Sturgis, an LAPD
homicide detective, for insight and advice when confronted with an
unusual case. Kellerman has chosen to eschew stereotypes as a
shortcut to describing both men. Delaware bears none of the uneasy
eccentricities that one occasionally finds in those who work in
what are known as the “helping professions.” Sturgis is
a gay male in an occupation where such an orientation might not be
viewed entirely favorably by the rank and file, but he is secure
enough in who he is to the extent that he wears nothing on his
sleeve. More than colleagues, the two of them (tactfully) exchange
unvarnished truths, and Sturgis, an endearing foodie, can walk into
Delaware’s home and raid the refrigerator with nary an
upturned eyebrow from Delaware or his wife.

DECEPTION, the latest installment in the series, begins with the
discovery of a dead body that may or may not be the result of a
murder, although the homicidal nature of the crime is determined
quickly enough. The body in question belongs to Elise Freeman, a
substitute teacher and tutor at an extremely exclusive and
fashionable Los Angeles area prep school that caters to the
children of the rich and famous. Freeman has left behind a DVD in
which she speaks from beyond the grave, accusing three faculty
members of sexual harassment. They immediately come under suspicion
for the murder, as does Freeman’s occasionally convenient
boyfriend, who discovered her body.

Sturgis, with Delaware ever-present, begins interviewing the
suspects, but there is an interesting wrinkle that hamstrings the
investigation. The son of the Chief of Police is a senior at the
prep school where Freeman taught, and any untoward publicity
involving the school might impede the lad’s chances of being
accepted at the university that his father has picked out for him.
Sturgis is used to going where the investigation takes him, and the
“mother-may-I” limitations under which he is requested
to function raise his hackles in short order. Delaware observes,
speculates, advises, and most importantly for the reader, narrates
the action, occasionally editorializing as Freeman’s life
outside the confines of the classroom is slowly and tantalizingly
revealed. When another murder takes place, the identity of the
killer seems to be an almost foregone conclusion --- until it
isn’t. There are many unexpected twists and turns toward the
climax, which reveals that a number of people besides Sturgis and
Delaware have the right stuff.

DECEPTION is peppered with lots of interesting characters, some
of whom are old friends from previous installments in the series,
others of whom will be gone but not forgotten by the next volume.
And while the novel is heavy on entertaining dialogue, that
imbalance makes the occasional jump-out moment more stark and
surprising.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel
by Jonathan Kellerman

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345505670
  • ISBN-13: 9780345505675