Victims by Jonathan KellermanFull Title: Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel
Jonathan Kellerman
Publisher: Ballantine (2012)
Number of Pages: 338
How long it took me to read: 3 days
Where I got this book: local library
ISBN: 978-0-345-50571-2

Like a Moth to a Flame

Kellerman’s series with psychologist Alex Delaware is one of my favorite reads, so of course I quickly snatched Victims off the shelf at the local public library. He does a beautiful job of not only handling the legal, detective aspects of this series, but the psychological issues as well.

Favorite Five

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

5. “Homicide detectives get ‘used’ to a regular diet of soul-obliteration. Typically bright and sensitive, they soldier on, but the essence of the job lurks beneath the surface like a land mine. Some D’s transfer out. Others stay and find hobbies. Religion works for some, sin for others. Some, like Milo, turn griping into an art form and never pretend it’s just another job.” (p.10)

4. “Decades before, Ventura State had gained infamy as a place where anything went if a doctor said so. A host of horrors had taken place behind its walls until World War II drew the doctors to Europe and the Pacific, and the Holocaust got people thinking harder about degradation of personal liberty: lobotomies and other untested surgeries, crude versions of shock and insulin therapy, forced commitment of those labeled a nuisance, forced sterilizations of those deemed unfit to breed. Reforms had been drastic and thorough and the hospital had gained a reputation for enlightenment and humanism; I was eager to experience a new clinical setting and to be back in Southern California.” (p.173)

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. But those a notch lower on the IQ scale often need to prep before indulging their urges with alcohol or dope or by chanting internal rage mantras that provide self-justification.” (p.71)

2. “The yield from this receptacle was a necklace of intestines placed below the woman’s neckline and arranged like a fashionista’s puffy scarf. One end terminated at her right clavicle. Bilious streaks ran down her right breast and onto her rib cage. The rest of her viscera had been pulled down into a heap and left near her left hip.” (p.5)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “ ‘Things we’d consider petty could loom huge in our boy’s mind. Righting wrongs, real or imaginary, gives him justification to act out his body-exploration fantasies.’
Petra said, ‘People irk him so he guts them? Insane.’
Milo patted my shoulder. ‘Ergo his presence.’ ” (p.188)

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:

“ ‘Great big piles of greasy, grimy gopher guts…’ is the song line that unfortunately comes to me as I’m reading these beginning chapters. The usual gory beginning of an Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis case, as always, leaves me wanting to read more. The visual details of spewed intestines are a bit too much for my sensitive nature (or not), and the description of the smells leads to a near-visceral olfactory sensation. How creepy is this? And I wonder why I’m so attracted to these novels of evil. Is it the therapist in me or is there some past-life remembrance of detective work? Or more frightening, was I a sociopath in a previous life? Perhaps a bit of all three—however much I don’t want to think of my possible past lives and the probable traumas I inflicted upon others. At least I know I’m not a sociopath in this lifetime!”

“The transition from the horror of the crime scene to the beautiful descriptions of Alex’s partner and their homestead helps keep me from getting too jaded from the initial ghoulish beginnings. The frightening aspects of the human condition intrigue and depress me. The descriptions of the beauty of people, pets, and nature lift me to joy. I need to feel the joy as there is far too little of it in what I’ve read to this point. Then again, can I measure joy without the knowledge of darkness? I believe we have to see the good and the bad in the nature of man to grow, heal, and become our highest selves. Kellerman brings out both and the dichotomies help me to focus on the need for the dialectics of life. These dialectics are what I focus on in both my professional and personal lives, for embracing both is what allows us all to get beyond our shadows. And thankfully, heaven only knows the extent of my darkness….”

“As a therapist, I’m fascinated by the workings of former state mental asylums such as the one that existed in this book, as well as the one in the town where I now reside. I wonder what kinds of evils were perpetrated there. Kellerman gives me an idea of this (see above quote), yet he also reveals the good of the professionals who truly wanted to help those who were horribly impaired by their psychiatric conditions. He gives me time to ponder—was the severe sociopathy of the book character enabled by poor treatment at the hospital or was it already so ingrained in the character that nothing would help? For I know that sociopaths seldom respond to treatment and I believe that some go beyond the psychiatric definition of antisocial personality and reach the realm of evil. I’m realizing that this character in the book is pure evil, something that is beyond my comprehension of a human being; a monster of undefinable proportions. Every few years I re-read M. Scott Peck’s masterful book on evil, People of the Lie. I believe I need to peruse it once again.”

“Utterly gruesome; this is beyond the macabre descriptions I usually read about in a Kellerman book. I’m overwhelmed with the gripping (and dripping) details of such monstrous evil. I cannot wrap my mind around such utter pathology although I know it exists as evidenced by the horrors of such serial killers as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. How Kellerman engages with people’s shadow selves is remarkable; engaging me personally and professionally is quite a feat as I tend to read mysteries in order to solve the case, not to have to examine my own issues.”

“Holy shit! I’m coming across a new development that’s unbelievably twisted and fascinating. This is so engaging, yet I must put it down and go to bed. I’m afraid I may have horrific dreams; this may be a night to keep all the lights on in the house. And meditate. And pray.”

“As I finish this book, I realize it’s one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read on psychopathology and the detective work necessary to entrap such a creature (or creatures). Unlike a number of authors, I find Kellerman’s work to expand and deepen with each novel and I believe this might be his best work to date.”

Other Reviews of this Book

Rebecca Marble's Guest Review of Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

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  1. Cappi says:

    I enjoy mystery books and this review certainly has gotten me ready to finish up my current book and get on to this one. It probably will be a very short night for me!

  2. Janet says:

    Oh, my goodness! I don’t think I’d have the stomach for this book, but you never know… :-) That aside, the review is excellent. It has given me something to think about — the evils of human nature balanced against the good of those who are trying to do something to stop it. Whatever subject, whatever book, this reviewer always leaves me wanting to know more. Keep up the great work!

  3. LIA says:

    I like Kellerman, too. The reviewer has whetted my interest in picking up this book.

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