The Conspiracy Clubby Jonathan Kellerman
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Over the course of twenty acclaimed novels of suspense, most recently The Murder Book and A Cold Heart, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman has pitted psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware against adversaries as disturbed and dangerous as Delaware is clever and compassionate. Now in Kellerman's gripping new novel, a different hero will hold the reader spellbound: a dedicated young psychologist, unschooled in the ways of violent crime and incalculable evil–until his life is irreversibly touched by both . . . and he is thrust into a chilling hunt for a twenty-first-century Jack the Ripper.
When his brief, passionate romance with nurse Jocelyn Banks is cut short by her kidnapping and brutal murder, Dr. Jeremy Carrier is left emotionally devastated, haunted by his lover's grisly demise and warily eyed by police still seeking a prime suspect in the unsolved slaying. To escape the pain, he buries himself in his work as staff psychologist at City Central Hospital–only to be drawn deeper into a waking nightmare when more women turn up murdered in the same gruesome fashion as Jocelyn Banks . . . and the suspicion surrounding Jeremy intensifies. Now, the only way to prove his innocence and put his torment to rest is to follow the trail of a cunning psychopath.
Spurring on Jeremy's investigation is Dr. Arthur Chess, an enigmatic pathologist who specializes in examining the dead, but harbors a keen fascination with the darker deeds committed by the living. Arthur draws Jeremy into an unexpected friendship, and into the confidence of a cryptic society devoted to matters unknown and unspoken. When he suddenly slips away, Jeremy is left tocontend with an onslaught of anonymous clues–and the growing realization that a harrowing game of cat and mouse has been set in motion.
But who besides Jeremy is playing–and who is making the rules? Before the killer strikes again, Jeremy races to connect the disturbing puzzle pieces being fed to him. Yet his search for answers only seems to yield more questions. And deepening the mystery is the undeniable presence of someone watching it all–and guiding Jeremy's investigation from behind the scenes. As the game intensifies, Jeremy must decide if a secret ally is setting him on the right path . . . or a sadistic enemy is setting him up for a fate far beyond even the most twisted imagination.
“[Kellerman] keeps the creepiness coming until the big-twist finish.”—People
“Eerie . . . tantalizing.”—Entertainment Weekly
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.08(d)
Read an Excerpt
Raging emotions, dead tissue.
Polar opposites was the way Jeremy Carrier had always seen it.
In a hospital setting, no two disciplines were less connected than psychology and pathology. As a practitioner of the former, Jeremy prided himself on an open mind; a good psychotherapist worked hard at avoiding stereotypes.
But during all his years of training and clinical work at City Central Hospital, Jeremy had met few pathologists who didn't fit a mold: withdrawn, mumbly types, more comfortable with gobbets of necrosed flesh, the abstract expressionism of cell smears, and the cold-storage ambience of the basement morgue, than with living, breathing patients.
And his fellow psychologists, psychiatrists, and all the other soldiers of the mental health army, were, more often than not, overly delicate souls repelled by the sight of blood.
Not that Jeremy had actually known any pathologists, even after a decade of passing them in the hallways. The social structure of the hospital had regressed to high school sensibilities: Us-Them as religion, a lusty proliferation of castes, cliques, and cabals, endless jockeying for power and turf. Adding to that was the end-means inversion that captures every bureaucracy: the hospital had devolved from a healing place needing funds to treat patients to a large-scale municipal employer requiring patient fees to meet its staff payroll.
All that created a certain asocial flavor.
A confederacy of isolates.
At City Central, like was attracted to like, and only the last-ditch necessities of patient care led to cross-pollination: internists finally admitting defeat and calling in surgeons,gen- eralists taking deep breaths before plunging into the morass of consultation.
What reason could there be for a pathologist to contact a psychologist?
Because of all that—and because life's hellish wrist-flick had turned Jeremy Carrier into a tormented, distracted young man—he was caught off-balance by Arthur Chess's overture.
Perhaps Jeremy's distractibility formed the basis for all that followed.
For nearly a year, Jeremy had seen Arthur once a week, but the two men had never exchanged a word. Yet here was Arthur, settling down opposite Jeremy in the doctors' dining room and asking if Jeremy cared for company.
It was just before 3 p.m., an off-hour for lunch, and the room was nearly empty.
Jeremy said, "Sure," then realized he was anything but.
Arthur nodded and settled his big frame into a small chair. His tray bore two helpings of fried chicken, a hillock of mashed potatoes glazed with gravy, a perfect square of corn bread, a small bowl of succotash, and a sweating can of Coca-Cola.
Staring at the food, Jeremy wondered: Southern roots? He tried to recall if Arthur's voice had ever betrayed Southern inflections, didn't think so. If anything, the old man's baritone was flavored by New England.
Arthur Chess showed no immediate interest in conversation. Spreading a napkin on his lap, he began shearing through the first piece of chicken. He cut quickly and gracefully, using long fingers tipped by broad nails stubbed short. His long white lab coat was snowy-clean but for a disturbing spatter of pinkish stains on the right sleeve. The shirt beneath the coat was a blue pinpoint Oxford spread-collar. Arthur's magenta bow tie hung askew in a way that suggested intention.
Jeremy figured the pathologist for at least sixty-five, maybe older, but Arthur's pink skin glowed with health. A neat, white, mustachless beard, which gave insight into what Lincoln's would've looked like had Honest Abe been allowed to grow old, fringed Arthur's long face. His bald head was lunar and imposing under cruel hospital lighting.
Jeremy knew of Arthur's reputation the way one is aware of a stranger's biography. Once Head of Pathology, Professor Chess had stepped down from administrative duties a few years ago to concentrate on scholarship. Something to do with soft-tissue sarcomas, the minutiae of cell-wall permeability, or whatnot.
Arthur also had a reputation as a world traveler and an amateur lepidopterist. His treatise on the carrion-eating butterflies of Australia had been featured in the hospital gift shop, alongside the usual paperback diversions. Jeremy had noticed the single stack of dry-looking, dirt brown volumes because they drabbed in comparison with the jackets of lurid best-sellers. The brown stack never seemed to reduce; why would a patient want to read about bugs that ate corpses?
Arthur ate three bites of chicken and put down his fork. "I really do hope this isn't an intrusion, Dr. Carrier."
"Not at all, Dr. Chess. Is there something you need?"
"Need?" Arthur was amused. "No, just seeking a bit of social discourse. I've noticed that you tend to dine alone."
"My schedule," lied Jeremy. "Unpredictable." Since his life had gone to hell, he'd been avoiding social discourse with anyone but patients. He'd gotten to the point where he could fake friendly. But sometimes, on the darkest of days, any human contact was painful.
Life's little wrist-flick . . .
"Of course," said Chess. "Given the nature of your work, that would have to be the case."
"Sir?" said Jeremy.
"The unpredictability of human emotions."
Arthur nodded gravely, as if the two of them had reached a momentous agreement. A moment later, he said, "Jeremy—may I call you Jeremy?—Jeremy, I noticed you weren't at our little Tuesday get-together this week."
"A situation came up," said Jeremy, feeling like a child caught playing hookey. He forced a smile. "Unpredictable emotions."
"Something that resolved well, I hope?"
Jeremy nodded. "Anything new come up at T.B.?"
"Two new diagnoses, an adenosarcoma, and a CML. Typical presentations, the usual spirited discussion. To be honest, you didn't miss a thing."
Our little Tuesday get-together was Tumor Board. A weekly ritual, 8 to 9 a.m., in the larger conference room, Arthur Chess presiding over a confab of oncologists, radiotherapists, surgeons, nurse specialists. Commanding the slide projector, wielding a light wand, and his voluminous memory.
For nearly a year, Jeremy had been the mental health army's representative. In all that time, he'd spoken up once.
He'd attended his first Tumor Board years before, as an intern, finding the experience an ironic grotesquerie: slides of tumor-ravaged cells click-clicked on a giant screen, the images obscured by nicotine haze.
At least a third of the cancer doctors and nurses were puffing away.
Jeremy's supervisor at the time, an astonishingly pompous psychoanalyst, had wielded a Meerschaum pipe of Freudian proportions and blown Latakia fumes in Jeremy's face.
Arthur had been running things back then, too, and he'd looked much the same, Jeremy realized. The chief pathologist hadn't smoked, but neither had he objected. A few months later, a wealthy benefactor touring the hospital poked her head in and gasped. Soon after, the hospital passed a no-smoking rule, and the mood at subsequent Tumor Boards grew testy.
Arthur sectioned a tiny square of corn bread from the host slab and chewed thoughtfully. "No loss for you, Jeremy, but I do believe that your presence contributes."
"Even if you don't say much, the fact that you're there keeps the rest of us on our toes. Sensitivity-wise."
"Well," said Jeremy, wondering why the old man was bullshitting him so shamelessly, "anything that helps sensitivity."
"The time you did speak up," said Arthur, "taught us all a lesson."
Jeremy felt his face go hot. "I felt it was relevant."
"Oh, it was, Jeremy. Not everyone saw it that way, but it was."
The time he spoke up had been six weeks ago. Arthur flashing slides of a metastasized stomach carcinoma on the big screen, defining the tumors in the precise Latin poetry of histology. The patient, a fifty-eight-year-old woman named Anna Duran, had been referred to Jeremy because of "unresponsive demeanor."
Jeremy found her initially sullen. Rather than try to draw her out, he refilled her empty cup with tea, got himself coffee, plumped her pillows, then sat down by her bedside and waited.
Not caring much if she responded, or not. It had been that way since Jocelyn. He didn't even try anymore.
And the funny thing was, patients reacted to his apathy by opening up more quickly.
Grief had made him a more effective therapist.
Jeremy, flabbergasted, gave the matter some thought and decided patients probably perceived his blank face and statue posture as some sort of immutable, Zen-like calm.
If only they knew . . .
By the time she finished her tea, Anna Duran was ready to talk.
Which is why Jeremy was forced to speak up, twenty minutes into a contentious exchange between Mrs. Duran's attending oncologist and the treating radiotherapist. Both specialists were voluble men, well-intentioned, dedicated to their craft, but overly focused, baby-bathwater-tossers. Complicating matters further, neither cared for the other. That morning they'd slipped into an increasingly heated debate on treatment sequence that left the rest of the attendees peeking at their watches.
Jeremy had resolved to stay out of it. Tuesday mornings were an annoyance, his turn the result of a mandatory rotation that placed him in too-close proximity to death.
But that morning, something propelled him to his feet.
The sudden motion fixed fifty pairs of eyes upon him.
The oncologist had just completed a pronouncement.
The radiotherapist, about to embark on a response, was deterred by the look on Jeremy's face.
Arthur Chess rolled the light wand between his hands. "Yes, Dr. Carrier?"
Jeremy faced the sparring physicians. "Gentlemen, your debate may be justified on medical grounds, but you're wasting your time. Mrs. Duran won't agree to any form of treatment."
From the Hardcover edition.
What People are saying about this
“[Kellerman] keeps the creepiness coming until the big-twist finish.”—People
“Eerie . . . tantalizing.”—Entertainment Weekly
Meet the Author
Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than three dozen bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. With his son, bestselling novelist Jesse Kellerman, he co-authored the first book of a new series, The Golem of Hollywood. He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live in California, New Mexico, and New York.
- Beverly Hills, California
- Date of Birth:
- August 9, 1949
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I'm thoroughly disappointed. I expect a lot more out of this prolific writer. I thought I'd be thrilled get to know new characters, but I wasn't. 86 Dr. Carrier and Angela. The story never got off the ground. I finished the book because I hoped that it would get better. It didn't. Bring back the page turners with Alex and Milo!
As a huge Kellerman fan I was excited to read something with new characters..it turns out that I should have stuck with the usual Kellerman fare. The storyline was mediocre at best and I felt nothing for the characters..I missed Alex and Milo. I look forward to the next Delaware or Petra book.
Good mystery great characters you care about. I couldnt put it down!
One of his best books. I really enjoyed the characters in this book. A great read!
I love a good mystery novel but this story dragged on. To many unnecessary tangents. Sorry and not a extremely thoughtful ending either.
Although "The Conspiracy Club" doesn't include an all-time favorite, Alex Delaware, we're introduced to a likeable, young psychologist named Jeremy Carrier. In this story, he is psychologically put through his paces, and once the momentum begins to build, the reader is almost as caught up in the intrigue as the hero. When we meet Jeremy, he is recovering from the vicious murder of his fiancée, Jocelyn Banks, a nurse at Central City Hospital where he also works. He is typically considered a suspect by the police, and although they later leave him alone because of the lack of evidence, one of the detectives, Steve Hoker, continues to pursue him throughout the novel in an indirect way. Jeremy has become totally absorbed in his job and is considered a favorite of all who come into contact with him. He has a special healing talent that patients respond to and a charisma that doesn't escape Angelo Rios, a resident physician. She and Jeremy eventually become lovers. Meanwhile, an older doctor on staff, Arthur Chess, a pathologist and director of a weekly meeting Jeremy attends, approaches Jeremy one day in the doctors' dining room. Chess's overture confuses Jeremy because the older man's manner is unusual, and Jeremy doesn't see the point of their conversation. As time goes on, however Jeremy realizes that Chess is involving him in a clever and elaborate mind game, and the symbolic name of Chess doesn't go unnoticed by the reader. Still, the point of the game eludes Jeremy, although he is caught up in the mystery and is determined to follow it though. He is introduced to Chess's friends at a bizarre late-night supper and then abruptly ignored completely by the older doctor and the rest of the group. When Chess leaves the hospital temporarily to travel, Jeremy is given strange clues via interoffice correspondence to something that momentarily baffles him. He thinks the messages are coming from Chess, but the fact that he's abroad only confounds the issue. Jeremy is hooked nevertheless. He suspects that Chess's dinner companions may be in on the project and are acting in his behalf. Occational postcards from Chess offer further clues to something hidden. Finally, the twists and turns expose a symmetry and enlightenment that amaze Jeremy. He connects the dots to reveal an evil side to two other doctors on staff and a vulnerability shared by Chess and his friends. The clues he has received plunge Jeremy deeply into their secrets and his own psyche and ultimately point to a cathartic release for Jeremy. For readers who enjoy winding through a maze, this book is recommended for the sheer intricacy of it. Once more, Kellerman performs his magic.
One of his best.
Contrary to the other reviews shown here, I thought the book was a success... Even though written as a stand-alone book, I would read another about Dr. Jeremy Carrier or Arthur Chess and the CCC. As an avid reader of the Alex Delaware series, I appreciated Kellerman's deviation from the norm.
I'm not impressed at all with this book. It was extremely slow and boring. Just when you expected something exciting to happen, nothing did. The book did not flow like it should have. I don't think it was completely horrid, but it is definately not on my Favorite Books List. Kellerman didn't begin to develop his characters until at least 50 pages in to the novel. I was expecting more from a book call The Conspiracy Club. To me there wasn't much of a conspiracy. For real conspiracy read The Da Vinci Code or The Rule of Four.
I was ready not to like this book after reading all these reviews, but decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. I was pleasantly surprised. Although this one is slower paced than the Delaware whodunits, I found this story line more intriguing and interesting. I liked the fact that we learned about the club slowly as part of the story. I liked the characters and thought he did a good job developing them throughout the book. Overall, it's not one of those 'can't put it down', but it's a very satisfying read.
Contrary to most of the reviews, I enjoyed Kellerman's departure from the norm. The characters are well-developed and I did not think this story dragged. It is not a long novel and Kellerman spaced the twists and turns to my satisfaction. I have not read a complete Alex Delaware novel but will do so after reading this book.
Although the first half of the book is slow-paced, its short chapters were absolutely necessary in order to prevent one from totally giving up on the story! Once past that, the story picks up pace to reward the reader with a novel that is worth exploring to the end.
I was absolutely bored with this novel. I read the last 100 pages in one sitting just so I wouldn't have to open the book again. It seems you're waiting for something to happen and when it does you have one page left in the book. Very Dissapointed