It is a blessing and a curse to be the offspring of famous parents.
Accordingly, let's get the issue out of the way right now: yes
indeed, Jesse Kellerman is the son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman.
Jesse already has made his own mark, being better known at this
point as a playwright than as an author. That may change, however,
given the strength of his debut novel.
SUNSTROKE is one of those books that defies proper
characterization. Does it have elements of mystery and suspense?
Yes, it does. Yet it meanders and slips and slides in and out of
those genres, providing an episodic character study set against the
background of Mexico, in an unsettling village where there are two
rules: 1) there are no rules; and 2) the rules keep changing.
The novel is told from the viewpoint of Gloria Mendez, a
thirty-something secretary who is quietly and hopelessly in love
with Carl Perreira, her boss of a decade or so. Perreira, a
pleasant but enigmatic loner, has never given her cause to hope;
Mendez's desire for something other than an unrequited love comes
to an end when Perreira disappears while on vacation in Mexico. His
last contact with her was a cryptic, garbled cell phone message
about an accident.
Unable to elicit much interest in Perreira's disappearance, Mendez
goes to Mexico with the intent of finding him at best, or
determining his fate at worst; she finds much more than she
expected. The man she has come to love from afar has a surprising
past, one that collides with the present and will affect the lives
of people beyond the missing Perreira. The reader though ultimately
learns more about Mendez than her missing boyfriend.
Kellerman doesn't exhibit sympathy here so much as a remarkable and
touching empathy for Mendez, a Hispanic woman. He also displays a
quiet descriptive brilliance, particularly in his accounts of those
last few miles of U.S. Highway that one encounters when leaving San
Diego for Mexico, as well as for the ironically named Aguas Vivas,
a small, all-but-deserted town in Mexico where the dead find their
final resting place. It might be argued though that Kellerman's
pacing is flawed in spots; but upon reading the novel in its
entirety, one cannot help but conclude that there is a method to
Kellerman's occasional meandering. His apparent sidetracks
ultimately deal with Mendez, an intriguing character in her own
With SUNSTROKE Kellerman establishes that he is going to be very
much his own man from a topical standpoint. At the same time,
however, SUNSTROKE demonstrates that the apple not only doesn't
fall far from the tree, but also quickly seeds and grows roots of
its own. This is an impressive, memorable debut.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011