A Cold Heart (Alex Delaware Series #17)

A Cold Heart (Alex Delaware Series #17)

3.5 40
by Jonathan Kellerman

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""I've got a weird one, so naturally I thought of you," says Milo Sturgis, summoning his friend Alex to the trendy gallery where a promising young artist has been brutally garroted on the night of her first major showing. What makes it "a weird one" is the lack of any obvious motive, and the luridly careful staging of the murder scene - which immediately suggests to…  See more details below


""I've got a weird one, so naturally I thought of you," says Milo Sturgis, summoning his friend Alex to the trendy gallery where a promising young artist has been brutally garroted on the night of her first major showing. What makes it "a weird one" is the lack of any obvious motive, and the luridly careful staging of the murder scene - which immediately suggests to Alex not an impulsive crime of passion...but the meticulous and taunting modus operandi of a serial killer." "The Hollywood cops are investigating the vicious death of Baby Boy Lee, a noted blues guitarist, fatally stabbed after a late-night set at a local club. What links Baby Boy's murder with that of painter Juliet Kipper is the shadowy presence of an abrasive fanzine writer. This alias-shrouded critic's love-the-art/disdain-the-artist philosophy and his morbid fascination with the murders leads Alex and the detectives to suspect they're facing a new breed of celebrity stalker: one with a fetish for snuffing out rising stars." Tracking down the killer proves to be maddening, with the twisting trail leading from halfway houses to palatial mansions and from a college campus to the last place Alex ever expected to end up: the doorstep of his ex-lover Robin Castagna. Since their breakup Alex and Robin have been haunted by doubts and old longings, and with the rising of Robin's own creative star, her role assumes a chilling new importance - as a prime target for the psychopath who's made coldblooded murder his chosen art form.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Analyze this about Dr. Alex Delaware: he's a guy who cleans the front grille of his Cadillac with a toothbrush before going out to meet a new woman. But there's something endearing about his actually admitting it. And fortunately for readers of a series that still ambles on confidently, he's smarter about murder than he is about love. — Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
"This one's a twister, isn't it?" Kellerman is at it again with number 17 in his highly successful series starring smooth L.A. psychologist Alex Delaware. In this latest installment, Delaware is called in (via Homicide pal Milo Sturgis) to consult on a string of bizarre murders of fringe artists on the verge of stardom. The victims-a bluesman out of rehab, a punk diva screaming her way toward a record deal, a rising young concert pianist and an abstract painter-seem utterly unrelated. Their only connection, as Delaware shrewdly notes, is that each is "[a] gifted, damaged soul snuffed out violently, during the first blush of comeback." Rounding out the investigative team is Det. Petra Connor (reprising her role from previous Kellerman books), this time paired with spooky, skinny Eric Stahl, a silent ex-soldier with a sweaty fear of hospitals. The clues appear in an underground zine covering art in absurdly pretentious tones ("This is DANCE as in paleo-instinctuo-bioenergetics") in articles signed by the "Faithful Scrivener," and lead the team to encounters with some of the weirder denizens of the City of Angels. Of course, Kellerman provides a meaty layer of interpersonal relationships beneath the surface of his plot, so that longtime fans can tune into the latest episode of Delaware's tense friendship with his ex, Robin, which is not where he hoped it would be, but which he handles with his usual aplomb ("When in doubt, ask about the dog"). That Robin's occupation places her squarely in the killer's crosshairs wraps things up nicely. Booksellers should have little trouble moving this along. Agent, Barney Karpfinger. Major ad/promo. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
Delaware and Sturgis find themselves involved in investigating a series of murders whose common denominator is that the victims are entertainers who were either on the verge of a career breakthrough or about to make a comeback. Again, there's an abundance of intriguing characters who are credibly brought to life in an endless array of plots and subplots. (20 Jun 2005)
—Steve Forbes
Kirkus Reviews
The sleuthing shrink returns for a 17th session. This time out, psychotherapist Alex Delaware finds himself set against a serial killer who has serious issues with performers. The list of performers is generous, comprising a blues singer, a ballet dancer, a painter, a punk-rocker, a concert pianist, and a saxophone player. But where's the tie that binds? Of course, all of them, even the painter, succeed only when they satisfy their audiences, but Alex (The Murder Book, 2002, etc.) suspects a deeper, sicker bond. Accompanied by cast regulars Milo Sturgis and Petra Connor of LAPD homicide-with Petra's semi-mute new partner Eric Stahl as an added starter-Alex sets out to discover what the link among the late performers might be. Together they follow a corkscrew path to, then deep into, the twisted pathology of a ruthless killer who views murder as just a heightened kind of performance. Complicating Alex's sleuthing, however, is the manifest need for some self-investigation. Without his having planned or in any way prepared for this complication, the number of fetching ladies in his life has risen to two. It's a situation with a definite downside, since Alex finds to his dismay that if he can't be near the charmer he loves, he loves the charmer he's near. Detective fiction's best-loved shrink, handsome, intrepid, immeasurably sensitive, is in top form, even though the 400 pages of his latest case might have called for some shrinking themselves. Agent: Barney Karpfinger/Karpfinger Agency
From the Publisher
“Artfully done . . . [a] classic whodunit sprinkled with hard-boiled lines and more twists than a plate of fusilli. Kellerman has an unusual knack for making his heroes and their personal lives as detailed and engaging as the crime solving.”—People
“Kellerman really knows how to keep those pages turning.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Alex Delaware Series, #17
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

The witness remembers it like this:
Shortly after 2 a.m., Baby Boy Lee exits the Snake Pit through the rear alley fire door. The light fixture above the door is set up for two bulbs, but one is missing, and the illumination that trickles down onto the garbage-flecked asphalt is feeble and oblique, casting a grimy mustard-colored disc, perhaps three feet in diameter. Whether or not the missing bulb is intentional will remain conjecture.
It is Baby Boy’s second and final break of the evening. His contract with the club calls for a pair of one-hour sets. Lee and the band have run over their first set by twenty-two minutes, because of Baby Boy’s extended guitar and harmonica solos. The audience, a nearly full house of 124, is thrilled. The Pit is a far cry from the venues Baby Boy played in his heyday, but he appears to be happy, too.
It has been a while since Baby Boy has taken the stage anywhere and played coherent blues. Audience members questioned later are unanimous: Never has the big man sounded better.
Baby Boy is said to have finally broken free of a host of addictions, but one habit remains: nicotine. He smokes three packs of Kools a day, taking deep-in-the-lung drags while onstage, and his guitars are notable for the black, lozenge-shaped burn marks that scar their lacquered wood finishes.
Tonight, though, Baby Boy has been uncommonly focused, rarely removing lit cigarettes from where he customarily jams them: just above the nut of his 62 Telecaster, wedged under the three highest strings, smoldering slowly.
So it is probably a tobacco itch that causes the singer to leap offstage the moment he plays his final note, flinging his bulk out the backdoor without a word to his band or anyone else. The bolt clicks behind him, but it is doubtful he notices.
The fiftieth Kool of the day is lit before Baby Boy reaches the alley. He is sucking in mentholated smoke as he steps in and out of the disc of dirty light.
The witness, such that he is, is certain that he caught a glimpse of Baby Boy’s face in the light and that the big man was sweating. If that’s true, perhaps the perspiration had nothing to do with anxiety but resulted from Baby Boy’s obesity and the calories expended on his music: For 83 minutes he has been jumping and howling and swooning, caressing his guitar, bringing the crowd to a frenzy at set’s end with a fiery, throat-ripping rendition of his signature song, a basic blues setup in the key of B-flat that witnesses the progression of Baby Boy’s voice from inaudible mumble to an anguished wail.
There’s women that’ll mess you
There’s those that treat you nice
But I got me a woman with
A heart as cold as ice.
A cold heart,
A cold, cold heart
My baby’s hot but she is cold
A cold heart,
A cold, cold heart
My baby’s murdering my soul . . .
At this point, the details are unreliable. The witness is a hepatitis-stricken, homeless man by the name of Linus Leopold Brophy, age thirty-nine but looking sixty, who has no interest in the blues or any other type of music and who happens to be in the alley because he has been drinking Red Phoenix fortified wine all night and the Dumpster five yards east of the Snake Pit’s back door provides shelter for him to sleep off his delirium tremens. Later, Brophy will consent to a blood alcohol test and will come up .24, three times the legal limit for driving, but according to Brophy “barely buzzed.”
Brophy claims to have been drowsy but awake when the sound of the back door opening rouses him and he sees a big man step out into the light and then fade to darkness. Brophy claims to recall the lit end of the man’s cigarette glowing “like Halloween, you know—orange, shiny, real bright, know what I mean?” and admits that he seizes upon the idea of panhandling money from the smoker. (“Because the guy is fat, so I figure he had enough to eat, that’s for sure, maybe he’ll come across, know what I mean?”)
Linus Brophy struggles to his feet and approaches the big man.
Seconds later, someone else approaches the big man, arriving from the opposite direction—the mouth of the alley, at Lodi Place. Linus Brophy stops in his tracks, retreats into darkness, sits down next to the Dumpster.
The new arrival, a man, also good-sized, according to Brophy, though not as tall as Baby Boy Lee and maybe half of Baby Boy’s width, walks right up to the singer and says something that sounds “friendly.” Questioned about this characterization extensively, Brophy denies hearing any conversation but refuses to budge from his judgment of amiability. (“Like they were friends, you know? Standing there, friendly.”)
The orange glow of Baby Boy’s cigarette lowers from mouth to waist level as he listens to the new arrival.
The new arrival says something else to Baby Boy, and Baby Boy says something back.
The new arrival moves closer to Baby Boy. Now, the two men appear to be hugging.
The new arrival steps back, looks around, turns heel and leaves the alley the way he came.
Baby Boy Lee stands there alone.
His hand drops. The orange glow of the cigarette hits the ground, setting off sparks.
Baby Boy sways. Falls.
Linus Brophy stares, finally builds up the courage to approach the big man. Kneeling, he says, “Hey, man,” receives no answer, reaches out and touches the convexity of Baby Boy’s abdomen. He feels moisture on his hand and is repelled.
As a younger man, Brophy had a temper. He has spent half of his life in various county jails and state penitentiaries, saw things, did things. He knows the feel and the smell of fresh blood.
Stumbling to his feet, he lurches to the back door of the Snake Pit and tries to pull it open, but the door is locked. He knocks, no one answers.
The shortest way out of the alley means retracing the steps of the newcomer: walk out to Lodi Place, hook north to Fountain, and find someone who’ll listen.
Brophy has already wet his pants twice tonight—first while sleeping drunk and now, upon touching Baby Boy Lee’s blood. Fear grips him, and he heads the other way, tripping through the long block that takes him to the other end of the alley. Finding no one on the street at this hour, he makes his way to an all-night liquor store on the corner of Fountain and El Centro.
Once inside the store, Brophy shouts at the Lebanese clerk who sits reading behind a Plexiglas window, the same man who one hour ago sold him three bottles of Red Phoenix. Brophy waves his arms, tries to get across what he has just seen. The clerk regards Brophy as exactly what he is—a babbling wino—and orders him to leave.
When Brophy begins pounding on the Plexiglas, the clerk considers reaching for the nail-studded baseball bat he keeps beneath the counter. Sleepy and weary of confrontation, he dials 911.
Brophy leaves the liquor store and walks agitatedly up and down Fountain Avenue. When a squad car from Hollywood Division arrives, Officers Keith Montez and Cathy Ruggles assume Brophy is their problem and handcuff him immediately.
Somehow he manages to communicate with the Hollywood Blues and they drive their black and white to the mouth of the alley. High- intensity LAPD-issue flashlights bathe Baby Boy Lee’s corpse in a heartless, white glare.
The big man’s mouth gapes, and his eyes are rolled back. His banana yellow Stevie Ray Vaughan T-shirt is dyed crimson, and a red pool has seeped beneath his corpse. Later, it will be ascertained that the killer gutted the big man with a classic street fighter’s move: long-bladed knife thrust under the sternum followed by a single upward motion that slices through intestine and diaphragm and nicks the right ventricle of Baby Boy’s already seriously enlarged heart.
Baby Boy is long past help, and the cops don’t even attempt it.
From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright© 2003 by Jonathan Kellerman

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Artfully done . . . [a] classic whodunit sprinkled with hard-boiled lines and more twists than a plate of fusilli. Kellerman has an unusual knack for making his heroes and their personal lives as detailed and engaging as the crime solving.”—People
“Kellerman really knows how to keep those pages turning.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Cold Heart (Alex Delaware Series #17) 3.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this Alex Delaware better than some of latest ones (i.e. The Conspiracy Club). I read primarily to catch up with one of Kellerman's new characters - Petra Connor, a LAPD homicide detective. I like her and her partner Eric Stahl. This book grabs you in the beginning but gets blogged down in multiple suspects in the middle. Recommended but you need patience...
Anonymous 3 months ago
Amber1MA More than 1 year ago
Too dragged out....got really boring
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CHARWI More than 1 year ago
A good suspenseful novel. Kellerman is one of my must read authors.
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Mystery7 More than 1 year ago
Excellent read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book. It wasn't as great as the other ones. I felt that it was missing feeling from Alex, the villan & the victims. Don't get me wrong the story was also interesting just not as passionate. I give the novel one thumb up. And would still recommend it to however is in to the Delaware series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found A cold heart to be a nice book to read, I really enjoyed it.. I don't see it as horrible as so many say it is. I liked Petra, she was a nice edition to the series, and I can understand why Delaware didnt fight for Robin.. even if both of them still had soemthing left. He had someone, and Robin had someone.. Stahl was a stale character, he had no depth to him, but without him I cant see the plot working out. I didnt quite understand how they figured out who was behind the killings.. When he first mentioned the kevin drummond I had to reread the paragraphs over a few times... I also found the ending to be a bit weak. Aside from the few glitches, I liked this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read all the Alex Delaware series and this one was just disappointing. The disappointment is a toss-up between the actual plot and end of the relationship of Alex and Robin. I know lots of people think Alex's new love interest, Allison Gwynn (first appeared in The Murder Book), is better suited for Alex, but I honestly believe Robin provided a calm and peaceful anchor for the craziness in Alex's world. So, breaking up the Alex/Robin relationship seems to have ruined the plot of this book. The strength of character I've always admired with Alex has been shot since he can't seem to decide who he really wants - Robin or Allison. After being with Robin for over a decade, it just seems so sudden for him to give up and not fight for her. Allison is too much like Alex and the chemistry just doesn't seem to be there. I mean, does a man really want to be with someone exactly like him? After being a faithful reader of the Alex Delaware stories, I'm sad to say that Jonathan Kellerman has lost a reader in me. If anyone knows how I can write a letter to the author, please e-mail me and let me know how. Thanks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been a long time fan of Kellerman although his last few books have been lagging; this one is clearly the worst. There were great opportunities to spice things up with the addition of Petra and the mix of first-person and third-person narrative, but it fell flat. The addition of Eric Stahl too is troublesome -- he's clearly a poor man's Joe Pike from the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais. The plot is preposterous and the connections made by Delaware are ridiculous...we're supposed to believe that RC written in some guy's calendar refers to Robin, the ex? Quite a leap. I've always been a little stupefied that Milo has to rely on Delaware to solve all his cases for him and this book is no exception. When Milo asks Delaware which flights he should check out and how to go about it, I threw in the towel on the series. Milo must be the most inept cop in all of California, which is probably supposed to be a nice balance with the most sexy, most attractive, most libidinous psychologist pal of his -- Dr. Delaware. After awhile, I started skimming over the mentions of Delaware's good looks, money, and instant erections. Kellerman mailed this one in and it shows, complete with typos throughout. Petra states in one of the chapters, 'This is getting seriously weird...' Well this book is seriously awful. It was terrible. Don't waste your time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This had an excellent beginning...but the ending was rather tame...I liked the way Alex is more humane in his relationship, and the angle with Milo and Petra is good. The balance was good between the plot and the personal view of Alex's life...and the wry humour. Do give us more of Alex...but with more twist!