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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.
Posted August 9, 2005
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...
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Posted December 24, 2014
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Posted March 23, 2009
Posted July 14, 2007
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2004
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 8, 2004
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2004
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 25, 2003
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2003
Posted August 26, 2003
I have been reading this series for years, and I'm hoping this book is the last gasp. The basic plot premise is good - artistically talented people are getting murdered. However, Alex's nonstop angst over his old love Robin and the start of his new love Allison is getting borrrrrrrring, and constantly brings the story to a thudding halt. The author tries to validate their tiresome presence by bringing them both into a contrived and completely ludicrous damsel-in-distress scene at the end. The good Dr. Delaware's taste in women is so clueless that he doesn't see that Petra Connor, the police officer, is a woman with more depth and character than the plastic Barbies he is anguishing over. And please spare me any more scenes of his pal Milo's revolting eating habits! The mystery's solution holds few surprises, and by the time I reached it I didn't much care anyway. J.Kellerman needs to drop the old yawn-inducing characters and develop a new series with Petra and her enigmatic partner Eric Stahl. Maybe Dr. Delaware could have a cameo role. Just make sure he leaves his love life at home - please.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2003
All I can really say is that I am very thankful that Robin seems to be gone. Sure hope she stays gone! The new love interest for Alex is much stronger, both emotionally and physically and will likely take the working relationship of Alex and Milo to a different level. I don't want her to replace Milo (NONONO), but it could give a little jolt to the storylines if she and Alex OR she and Milo were to go off solving crimes together and leave the third person behind!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2003
Kellerman seems to have rebounded from a prolonged slump that stretches back to the truely awful 'The Web'. The Murder Book hinted that Delaware still had some life in him while A Cold Heart confirms this suspicion. The story is a cracker that moves solidly along. Replacing Robin was a courageous but long overdue move as she tended to interfere with the plots while not contributing a believeable love interest. Spike is missed though!! How about a Delaware story that focuses on Milo. He is by far the most intrigueing and developed character. Perhaps something that leads him to become involved with a woman thus causing him to reflect and question his life choice. Not that I would want him to suddenly become a ladies man but the attraction that women have towards him is overwealming and at some point a person will come along that causes his heart to tingle with attraction as much as sympathy. For now A Cold Heart is good enough to pump some badly needed blood back into one of the very best series on the market!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2003
An overall avid reader of many styles and authors, Kellerman has always been one of my favorites. I felt I could always look to him for a good read. Not so, this time. I would normally complete one of his novels within a day or two, yet, this time, I was forced to return it, uncompleted, to my library after the 7-day checkout limit on this high-demand book. A RARE for me. Not able to leave a book half-read, I checked it out again a few weeks later (hoping it was only my own mood that soured my reading and not the book). Again, not so. I did choke it down, though, but it certainly left a lot to be desired. Gone was that spine-tingling suspense I was used to getting when reading one of Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels. In it's place was a slow read that I certainly had no trouble putting down (just the opposite, in fact). I look forward to his next novel, though in hope that it will be a great improvement upon this one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2003
Posted June 11, 2003
The latest novel by Kellerman is about a psychotic who murders up-and-coming artists and the detectives who hunt the killer. Along the way, we're introduced to many new faces in the Alex Delaware series, and many of those faces fade away as quickly as they came. Then, later in the book, Kellerman injects these people in that we have no recollection of! The plot was intriguing, but towards the end it seemed to just stop. There were many points of interest in the novel that Kellerman left hanging open for the reader to fill in the blanks. A Cold Heart started out as a fast-paced story until, like his other novels, it delved too deep into the intricacies of the human mind. I'm more interested about the 'who' in a 'whodunit' and not the 'why.' Johnathan Kellerman is a gifted writer, but he needs to spend more time evolving his STORY, not the life in which he lives that he portrays on to pieces of paper.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2003
A Cold Heart is the most recent of Kellerman¿s terrific series involving police consultant Alex Delaware and police lieutenant Milo Sturgis. Someone is killing artists who have been up, then down, and are trying to get ¿up¿ again. These artists encompass ¿art¿ across the board: painters, singers, guitarists, classical musicians, sculptors. This mystery brings together not only Milo and Alex, but also Petra, a cop who starred in Kellerman¿s non Alex Delaware Billy Straight. Robin, Alex¿s romantic interest for the past ten years, is still living apart from him. In fact, she is living with a new romantic interest. Alex, too, has a new interest in that department as well, Allison, a psychologist like him. While trying to help the police solve this mystery, Alex is still trying to navigate life without Robin. There is still a very strong bond between them which seemingly is only somewhat threatenting to Robin¿s new boyfriend, and even less so to Allison. Allison certainly appears in this book to be a good match for Alex, but one wonders whether his heart is still with Robin and whether he is capable of completely embracing a new love. Robin is a maker of and a repairer of guitars. She knows some of the murder victims.In addition to the murders, her new home is broken into and several guitars belonging to one of the victims are stolen. Is her connection to some of the victims important? Will the murderer target her? This mystery takes the reader through the dark alleys where prostitutes hang out and drug deals are effected, to the upper echelons of society, as well as to the ivory towers of academia. It deals with artistic temperament and artistic failure and the ends to which those who fail in art and fail in fitting in will resort as a means of compensation.
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Posted May 2, 2003