Victims by Jonathan KellermanGuest Reviewer: Rebecca Marble

Full Title: Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel
Jonathan Kellerman
Publisher: Ballantine (2012)
Number of Pages: 287 (e-reader)
How long it took me to read: 3 days
Where I got this book: I downloaded it from Barnes & Noble onto my NOOK.
ISBN: 978-0-345-53217-6

Like a Moth to a Flame

This is the 27th book in Kellerman’s series featuring psychologist Alex Delaware. I’ve read all the other books in the series and always look forward to new installments. When you’ve read 26 other books about the same characters, you start to feel like they’re friends you need to touch base with regularly.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “The damage brought to mind one of those hard-rubber change purses that relies on surface tension to protect the goodies. Squeeze to create a stellate opening, then reach in and scoop.” (p.9)

4. “Her badge chirped Hedy! Milo’s badge ruined her smile. The old man put his paper aside and eavesdropped.” (p.27)

3. “Criminal psychopaths operate with lower anxiety levels than the rest of us but it’s a myth that they lack emotion. The smartest, coldest antisocials avoid violence completely because violence is a stupid strategy. Look for their smiling faces on election posters.” (p.66)

2. “I’d approached the scene expecting to react more strongly than I had to Vita Berlin’s corpse. The opposite occurred: Taking in the butchery released an odd, detergent wash of calm that settled my nervous system.” (p.80)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “Keep your goals specific and realistic, be happy when anything goes well.” (p.150)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“Whenever I read Kellerman, I notice that the rhythm of his words is very soothing, even though his subject is often a gruesome murder.

“He lay on his back, ten feet to the west of a dirt entry road, in a clearing created by a seven-foot gap in a long hedge of oleander. Toxic plant. For the person who’d snapped the man’s neck, perfect cover.” (p.77)

“I wonder if his writing style is a conscious choice on his part. The main character and narrator is a psychologist. I imagine his voice calmly telling me this story in a way designed not to alarm me. The description of the surroundings distracts from the harshness of the victim’s broken neck.”

“I recently re-read Stephen King’s book, On Writing. I’ve read King’s book several times, especially when I’m experiencing writer’s block. I like how King compares his own writing style to that of other authors. He never says that his method is the only correct way to write. As I was reading Victims, I remembered that he mentioned that Kellerman knows when to use sentence fragments effectively, and so I started to more easily pick them out for myself. For example, as part of a description of the first murder scene, he says:

“No abrasions around the genital area and surprisingly little blood for so much brutality. No spatter or spurt or castoff or evidence of a struggle. All those towels; horribly compulsive…. Extremely sharp blade, probably not serrated.” (p.10)

“Kellerman’s use of short sentence fragments within a description of a scene like this pulls me into it as if these were my thoughts and impressions. I’m sure my immediate description of a fresh murder scene wouldn’t be in perfectly ordered sentences either.”

“This is the 27th book in this series. In this installment, Alex Delaware seems critical of his friend, Milo Sturgis. Sturgis is an LAPD lieutenant and the reason that Delaware consults on murder cases. Sturgis and Delaware are very different characters, kind of an Odd Couple-type pairing, but I never picked up on any disapproval of Milo in past books. Here he describes Milo as turning ‘griping into an art form’ (p.14), Milo’s lunch as ‘gruesome if you thought too much about it’ (p.108), and the outfit he wears for undercover work as having ‘managed to be too large for him, settled into folds, tucks, and wrinkles a sharpie would covet’ (p.222).”

“There’s a scene on page 121 in which Delaware and Sturgis go to a lawyer’s office. As they enter, the description focuses on the typewriter on the desk with a stack of carbon paper next to it. I think it stands out to me because Kellerman isn’t normally so heavy-handed in his characterizations. In the following scene, the lawyer’s nephew says that his calculations were ‘probably done on an abacus’ (p.125); the entire interaction with the lawyer indicates that the man is a bit of a jerk. Since he tries to tell Milo how to do his job, attempts to cut off the interview after the first question, and refers to his assistant as ‘the girl,’ the typewriter and carbon paper seem like overkill.”

“Robin has a very limited role in this book. She appears briefly in the scenes that take place in Dr. Delaware’s house but has little interaction with the other customers. The story focuses mainly on the mystery itself and very little on the relationships between the characters. Maybe Kellerman expects that we know the major players and additional description of them is unnecessary. One of the reasons that I return to this series over and over is because I like the characters. I’m interested in them and their relationships. I’m particularly invested Robin character. She builds custom guitars in her backyard workshop and I think that’s very cool. It’s the relationships between the characters and the glimpses of their everyday life that make them seem real to me.”

Other Reviews of this Book

Carol Anderson's Review of Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

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1 Comment

  1. GKelly says:

    I, too, like Kellerman’s books and this description encourages me to get the latest one. Very clear, pithy review which raises new insights on Kellerman’s writing.

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