I recently came across an article in which Jonathan Kellerman was purported to have stated that he had thirty outlines for future Alex Delaware novels at the ready. That is good news. If he publishes one a year, I may not get to read all of them (the insurance actuaries assure me that I won't, but, after all, an actuary is an accountant who doesn't have the force of personality to become a CPA). However, it will certainly give me something to shoot for. And after reading THERAPY, I am thrice enthused.
Kellerman has been averaging a book a year for two decades now, the majority of which have been Delaware novels. He is a masterful enough storyteller that at this point he could probably be phoning in these novels to his publisher and no one would really be the wiser. What is so enthralling about Kellerman, though, is that his craftsmanship --- excellent almost from the beginning --- gets better and better. I really became consciously aware of this with last year's THE CONSPIRACY CLUB, which was so well done that it almost --- almost --- made one forget about Alex Delaware. Now comes THERAPY and the return of Delaware with a vengeance. Kellerman's greatest competition, if these two novels are any indication, may well be himself.
Kellerman has an extensive background in clinical psychology, and in THERAPY he takes unwavering and unflattering aim at some of those who practice in his own profession. The book begins with Delaware accompanying Los Angeles homicide detective Milo Sturgis to the scene of a brutal double murder. The victims are a young man and woman. The woman is unknown, but the man is immediately identified as Gavin Quick, a troubled young man traveling a downward spiral by accident and circumstance.
Quick's problems had resulted in court-ordered therapy. He had been seeing Dr. Mary Lou Koppel, a celebrity psychologist whose practice seems to be more focused on tinsel than treatment and who is loath to reveal either the secrets of her clients or her methods of treatment, whether the client is dead or alive. Delaware learns that another client of Koppel's had been murdered several months previously, in a manner very similar to that of the unknown woman who was found murdered with Quick. When Koppel herself turns up dead, it becomes clear that her practice, and her treatment, is the nexus of the murders --- the question of who is responsible for the killings and why.
Kellerman's pacing throughout THERAPY is absolutely marvelous; he reveals a piece here, a bit there, dropping brightly colored bread crumbs through the trail of his narrative, small enough that they don't point in any particular direction but big enough to keep the reader going. An added bonus to THERAPY is Kellerman's focus on Sturgis. Sturgis is an engaging if taciturn character who has always been an interesting supporting player in the Delaware mythos and who steps out a bit more in THERAPY. It becomes clearer, after reading this book, why these two men are friends, both because of and in spite of their divergent backgrounds and lifestyles.
Kellerman continues to challenge his own standard of excellence and not only meet but also exceed his own mark. If he is not yet on your "must read" list, THERAPY will be the work that will carve his name in stone. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011