Book Report: The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman (2002)

I say lots of glowing things about Ed McBain and how his books are immortal, how he uses series business lightly to keep things moving along but never at the expense of pacing or plot, or how his passages are lyrical. His 87th Precinct series stands as an example of how to do things right. This book, on the other hand, shows what happens when you do everything wrong.

This book is part of the Alex Delaware series. I’ve never read any of the others, so I’m lost and don’t give a weevil’s willie about the two and a half chapters of series business that starts the book as Alex breaks up, almost, with his long time girlfriend. In the middle of chapter 3, the “action” begins when someone mails a book of crime scene photos to Delaware and he shares them with his police detective compatriot, who recognizes one photo among many as a case he never solved before a sudden transfer pulled him off of it. That’s the motivation, the driving factor. To solve a 20 year old cold case, with no threats of immediate repeats or contemporary peril.

Meanwhile, Kellerman writes like the Michael Douglas character in Wonder Boys; there’s no detail too miniscule to leave out, no scene worth cutting. When the main characters go to New Mexico to interview someone, we get pages covering the drive from the airport, including getting lost and asking for directions; when the main characters need food, we get paragraphs about what they eat; when one character has nothing better to do, he washes his car, and we get a long paragraph about his car. In lieu of investigation, we get lots of time with the characters talking out what might have happened.

What happened? Ultimately, a bunch of rich kids killed a stoned girl, and their parents covered it up; 20 years later, the rich kids are now rich adults, and they’re still covering up. The psychologist of the detective’s dead partner sent the book, and he kept Delaware and the detective pointed in the right direction. Except when the Chief of Police was pointing them in the right direction or trying to obstruct them. Finally, we get an absurd climax 360 pages into the novel and some denouement with nothing really gained. Someone, not the protagonists of the novel, kill the bad guys, and they read about the deaths.

Geez, once I started finding flaws with the book, I didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to see how bad it could be. Changing POV from first (Delaware) to third (the detective) for apparently no reason? Got it! Actually, it might have been to provide insight into the characters, but I didn’t care enough about either of them to want to know more. And hey, who the heck was logging into their computer and downloading Google in 2002. Downloading Google. Lord, love a duck.

Yes, that bad.

Do not buy this book or read it. I will go as far as to not read another Alex Delaware novel. I’m so down on it, if a good series with riveting characters and good pacing came out written by Ed McBain’s son Joe Hunt but the series featured Chris Connecticut, I’d stay away just because all characters named after states have been tainted.

But hey, if you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s the link to buy it on Amazon.

Books mentioned in this review:

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