The Burnt House: A Peter Decker/rina Lazarus Novel
After a plane crashes in a residential Los Angeles
neighborhood, Lieutenant Peter Decker is quick on the scene. As the
smoke clears, it seems there is little for him left to do but be
thankful that his daughter's nearby school wasn't affected by the
crash, and the scene becomes one of search and investigation. But
Decker soon receives a phone call. An irate man insists that his
stepdaughter, although listed as a casualty, was not on the plane
at all. In fact, the caller says, she was murdered by her husband.
And so Decker faces the wreckage once more as he tries to find out
what really happened to Roseanne Dresden.
In Faye Kellerman's latest effort, earthy Peter Decker is back to
solve another crime along with colleagues Marge Dunn and Scott
Oliver, and his clever and beautiful wife, Rina Lazarus. Like all
past Decker/Lazarus novels, THE BURNT HOUSE combines
compelling police work with engaging domestic scenes and adds
Kellerman's trademark touch of religious interest. What other
literary cop out there is a practicing Orthodox Jew?
Even though Roseanne's family has no evidence to prove foul play,
Decker follows up on their hunch. It pays off. It turns out that
hers is the only body not recovered from the crash site, and her
husband may have had motive to kill her. Decker, Dunn and Oliver
begin to investigate in earnest and find that while Roseanne's body
is missing, another, unidentified body has turned up. Now they have
two murders to investigate. Decker and his team work hard to
uncover the truth not only about Dresden but also about the
mysterious corpse found in the building the plane crashed into.
Their work takes them from Los Angeles to Santa Fe where they meet
a family who has been in mourning for 30 years. They track down
members of a defunct church and Roseanne's lover, and visit an
elderly man in prison. What can all these leads tell them, and what
might they have in common?
As always, Kellerman makes a point to illustrate both the
uniqueness and normalcy of being an observant Jew in America.
Decker negotiating meals, which most people take for granted, is
interesting; it is easier for him to say he is a vegetarian than to
say he keeps kosher. Rina's religious ideas and spirituality are
thought provoking, giving the reader --- through her conversations
with her husband and others --- new ways to think about guilt,
innocence, sin and the importance of family.
THE BURNT HOUSE is a great read with the right number of
twists and turns and the always reliable character of Peter Decker.
Some coincidences may be a bit of a stretch, and there is less Rina
Lazarus than some fans might want. But Kellerman's pace and
dialogue are as good as ever. This is a recommendable novel to
transition readers from light summer reads to darker, more
thoughtful winter tomes.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 7, 2011