It is time once again to give a warm welcome to a new Alex Delaware mystery by Jonathan Kellerman. This blessing is contained within the covers of GUILT, which is certainly one of his best offerings to date and one of my personal favorites in the long-running chronicles of Delaware, the self-controlled consulting psychologist. LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis provides Delaware with entry into the investigation of the aftermath of the manifestation of the human soul’s dark side.
Each Delaware novel contains familiar elements that surround the two primary characters. For Delaware, it is his (usually) peaceful and satisfactory domestic life and his quietly well-centered personality. Sturgis is a connoisseur of gluttonous excess, as witnessed by his practice of barging into Delaware’s home and grazing through the family refrigerator, which is simultaneously amusing and appalling. His primary quality, though, is his compulsion and drive to make things right by seeing that justice is done for the victims whose cases he is charged with investigating. And if there was ever a case that screams for justice, it is the one presented here.
"It is time once again to give a warm welcome to a new Alex Delaware mystery by Jonathan Kellerman. This blessing is contained within the covers of GUILT, which is certainly one of his best offerings to date and one of my personal favorites in the long-running chronicles of Delaware..."
The focus of GUILT is on Delaware himself. The story begins when an infant’s skeleton is unearthed in the yard of a home. Collateral evidence indicates that the unfortunate child, just a few months old, was buried in the early 1950s. Sturgis, with Delaware assisting, has barely begun his investigation before a second grisly discovery is made in a nearby park. The bones of another baby whose demise is much more recent are found. On the same morning, the body of a young woman, shot execution-style, is discovered nearby. While subsequent analysis determines that the lady and the recently slain infant are not related, their deaths are almost certainly connected in some manner. There also remains the question of the baby whose body was unearthed prior to these new discoveries. Is that child connected in some way to these latest murders?
Delaware uses his medical connections to pair up with Sturgis’s hard-edged police work to follow a trail that seems to lead to the very rich and extremely famous and, interestingly enough, circles back to Delaware in some ways. There are a number of surprises to be had before the mysteries here are resolved, and while few of them are pleasant, a resolution of sorts is obtained, as is some rough justice on the part of an unexpected secondary victim.
Kellerman is much more than a master storyteller. His sentence style, which occasionally tends to the short and choppy, contains a wealth of understated detail; he is capable of telling much while using very little. There is a haunting passage where some very minor characters (window dressing, really) pass on and off the page in a heartbeat, never to return, yet Kellerman in a few simple words tells us volumes about them. The scene is about two thirds of the way through and involves a door. The book is loaded with vignettes such as these, and part of the joy of reading Kellerman is finding them and appreciating them. The main thrust of GUILT, however, is the puzzling mystery that is its core, and the bittersweet symmetry that attends the book’s beginning and ending. Do not miss this one.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 15, 2013