Dr. Death (Alex Delaware Series #14)

( 24 )


Who killed the killer? In his brilliant and startling new novel, Jonathan Kellerman, perennial bestselling author and premier proprietor of the psychological thriller, gives a sharp and timely twist to homicide's central question.

Someone has murdered euthanasia champion Dr. Eldon Mate—a self-styled Dr. Death responsible for scores of assisted suicides. In a burst of bloody irony, the killer chooses to dispatch the doctor in the back of Mate's own suicide van, hooking him up to ...

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Dr. Death (Alex Delaware Series #14)

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Who killed the killer? In his brilliant and startling new novel, Jonathan Kellerman, perennial bestselling author and premier proprietor of the psychological thriller, gives a sharp and timely twist to homicide's central question.

Someone has murdered euthanasia champion Dr. Eldon Mate—a self-styled Dr. Death responsible for scores of assisted suicides. In a burst of bloody irony, the killer chooses to dispatch the doctor in the back of Mate's own suicide van, hooking him up to the killing apparatus dubbed "the Humanitron"—and adding some butchering touches of his own. The case is assigned to veteran LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, who turns, once again, to his friend Dr. Alex Delaware. But working this case raises a conflict of interest for Alex so profound that he can't even discuss it with Milo. The tension that develops between cop and psychologist further complicates an already baffling and complex murder investigation—one whose suspects include the families of Dr. Mate's "travelers," Mate's own son, and a psychopathic killer who relishes the geometry of death.

Dr. Death is a rich brew of unforgettable characters, labyrinthine plotting, page-turning prose, and the unique insights into the darkest corners of the human mind that have earned Jonathan Kellerman international accolades as the master of psychological suspense.

Dr. Death had snuffed out the lives of dozens of human beings and now someone had turned him into a victim. When Mate is found mutilated in a rented van, harnessed to his own killing machine, Delaware is asked to aid his old friend, homicide cop Milo Sturgis, in the hunt for the death doctor's executioner.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
Death Is at Hand
In the 15 years that have passed since When the Bough Breaks was published, Jonathan Kellerman has produced a substantial body of fiction that combines viscerally exciting melodrama with subtlety and psychological complexity. These characteristic virtues are on full display in Dr. Death, Kellerman's 16th novel, and the 14th entry in the bestselling series featuring child psychologist -- and amateur detective -- Alex Delaware.

As the novel opens, Alex has signed on, once again, as an independent consultant to the Los Angeles Police Department. Partnered, as usual, with gay homicide detective Milo Sturgis, Alex finds himself investigating the death of a notorious, Kevorkian-like figure named Eldon Mate, popularly known as "Dr. Death." A controversial advocate of the "right to die," and a direct participant in at least 50 assisted suicides, Mate enters the headlines one last time when his grotesquely mutilated body is found strapped to the "humanitron," a machine designed to facilitate the suicides of terminally ill clients.

Alex's involvement nearly results in an unintended conflict of interest. Some months earlier, Alex had treated a teenaged girl named Stacy Doss, whose mother, Joanne, ended a protracted illness by taking her own life, presumably with Mate's assistance. Richard Doss, Stacey's father and Joanne's husband, bitterly resented the role Mate played in his wife's suicide. A wealthy, powerful man with a hair-trigger temper, Richard is one of a number of people with a viable motive for murder.

As the investigation proceeds, Alex and Milo steadily unearth a string of prospective culprits. Included among them are Mate's lawyer, who disappeared immediately after his client's death; Mate's son, a homeless, possibly psychotic artist whose father abandoned him many years before; and various members of the wealthy, terminally dysfunctional Doss family. Complicating all this is the possible involvement of an unrelated suspect: a traveling serial killer who goes by many names and whose modus operandi eerily mirrors the methods employed by Eldon Mate's killer.

Kellerman assembles his complex, multilayered plot with typical ingenuity, leading Alex through a lethal labyrinth of possibilities toward a violent, ironic conclusion. But Dr. Death is more than just a compelling novel of suspense. Like so much of Kellerman's work, it is also an acute, painfully precise portrait of a family torn apart by internal pressures and by the combined effects of guilt, grief, rage, hatred, and twisted, misplaced love. Dr. Death offers intelligent, compassionate, high-adrenaline entertainment and reaffirms Kellerman's position as one the leading modern practitioners of psychological suspense.

--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).

From the Publisher
Praise for Monster

"Kellerman is in peak form. . . . A surprising and complex story of festering evil—a tale that snakes its way to a stunningly dramatic conclusion."
People (Page-Turner of the Week)

Praise for Billy Straight

"Billy Straight is everything a thriller ought to be. The writing is excellent. The plotting is superior. The characters ring true. . . . A taut, compelling story."                  
USA Today

Praise for Jonathan Kellerman

"Jonathan Kellerman doesn't just write psychological thrillers—he owns the genre."
Detroit Free Press

"Often, mystery writers can either plot like devils or create believable characters. Kellerman stands out because he can do both. Masterfully."
USA Today

"Kellerman excels at plotting, dialogue, procedural detail and insight into abnormal states of mind."
Los Angeles Times

"Kellerman is the acknowledged king of the psychological thriller."
The Dallas Morning News

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A series of well-publicized gentle deaths are the work of self-appointed angel of mercy Dr. Eldon Mate, who attends to the terminally ill in cheap hotel rooms or in the back of his van. Now Mate himself is dead, carved up and found by two joggers and their dog on a high road above Los Angeles. Like Kellerman's previous bestsellers, this title features psychologist Alex Delaware, whose self-righteous pomposity blends neatly, as it has before, into a narrative liberally dosed with psycho-angles and agreeably warped murder motives. This time out, Delaware works with cop Milo Sturgis and counsels Stacy and Eric Doss, two teenage children getting over their mother Joanne's death, which Dr. Mate seemingly helped to hasten. In his dual role, Delaware encounters a rogue FBI agent tracking a killer obsessed with Mate; Mate's disturbed son; and Richard Doss, the kids' father, who by slipping cash to a shady character in a dark bar is marked as a prime murder suspect. Joanne's illness too proves mysterious. But Kellerman isn't in top form here. Most annoyingly, the FBI guy does the bulk of the sleuthing legwork, while Delaware spends much of the book either making love or pontificating on motivations for characters all very similarly flawed. The ending is agreeably tricky, but by then great gobs of Delaware have either delighted Kellerman's faithful or else turned readers' stomachs in a way that serial deaths, gentle or otherwise, may have somehow failed to do. Kellerman's rep and the book's strong, geometric cover will send this one on to the lists. (Dec. 5) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kellerman has come up with another very enjoyable mystery. The crime-solving team of LAPD detective Milo Sturgis and psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware are back to attempt to solve the murder of Eldon Mate Dr. Death who had attended more than 50 assisted suicides. In death, Mate is found in the rear of a rented van, hooked up to his own suicide machine. Read by John Rubinstein, this engaging story works very well on several levels, as it discusses psychology, dysfunctional families, and Southern California lifestyles, in addition to the ethics of euthanasia. The book has a remarkably contemporary feel about as up-to-date as tomorrow's headlines, yet it may also inspire repeat listening. Highly recommended; essential for detective and mystery collections. Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345508522
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/20/2008
  • Series: Alex Delaware Series, #14
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 473
  • Sales rank: 254,124
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman is one of the world’s most popular authors. He has brought his expertise as a child psychologist to numerous bestselling tales of suspense (which have been translated into two dozen languages), including thirteen previous Alex Delaware novels; The Butcher’s Theater, a story of serial killing in Jerusalem; and Billy Straight, featuring Hollywood homicide detective Petra Connor. His most recent novel is Monster. He is also the author of numerous essays, short stories, and scientific articles, two children’s books, and three volumes of psychology, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children. He and his wife, the novelist Faye Kellerman, have four children.


"I like to say that as a psychologist I was concerned with the rules of human behavior," Jonathan Kellerman has said. "As a novelist, I'm concerned with the exceptions." Both roles are evident in Kellerman's string of bestselling psychological thrillers, in which he probes the hidden corners of the human psyche with a clinician's expertise and a novelist's dark imagination.

Kellerman worked for years as a child psychologist, but his first love was writing, which he started doing at the age of nine. After reading Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels, however, Kellerman found his voice as a writer -- and his calling as a suspense novelist. His first published novel, When the Bough Breaks, featured a child psychologist, Dr. Alex Delaware, who helps solve a murder case in which the only apparent witness is a traumatized seven-year-old girl. The book was an instant hit; as New York's Newsday raved, "[T]his knockout of an entertainment is the kind of book which establishes a career in one stroke."

Kellerman has since written a slew more Alex Delaware thrillers; not surprisingly, the series hero shares much of Kellerman's own background. The books often center on problems of family psychopathology—something Kellerman had ample chance to observe in his day job. The Delaware novels have also chronicled the shifting social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, where Kellerman lives with his wife (who is also a health care practitioner-turned-novelist) and their four children.

A prolific author who averages one book a year, Kellerman dislikes the suggestion that he simply cranks them out. He has a disciplined work schedule, and sits down to write in his office five days a week, whether he feels "inspired" or not. "I sit down and start typing. I think it's important to deromanticize the process and not to get puffed up about one's abilities," he said in a 1998 chat on Barnes & Noble.com. "Writing fiction's the greatest job in the world, but it's still a job. All the successful novelists I know share two qualities: talent and a good work ethic."

And he does plenty of research, drawing on medical databases and current journals as well as his own experience as a practicing psychologist. Then there are the field trips: before writing Monster, Kellerman spent time at a state hospital for the criminally insane.

Kellerman has taken periodic breaks from his Alex Delaware series to produce highly successful stand-alone novels that he claims have helped him to gain some needed distance from the series characters. It's a testament to Kellerman's storytelling powers that the series books and the stand-alones have both gone over well with readers; clearly, Kellerman's appeal lies more in his dexterity than in his reliance on a formula. "Often mystery writers can either plot like devils or create believable characters," wrote one USA Today reviewer. "Kellerman stands out because he can do both. Masterfully."

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Jonathan Kellerman:
"I am the proud husband of a brilliant novelist, Faye Kellerman. I am the proud father of a brilliant novelist, Jesse Kellerman. And three lovely, gifted daughters, one of whom, Aliza, may turn out to be one of the greatest novelists/poets of this century. "

"My first job was selling newspapers on a corner, age 12. Then I delivered liquor, age 16 -- the most engaging part of that gig was schlepping cartons of bottles up stairways in building without elevators. Adding insult to injury, tips generally ranged from a dime to a quarter. And, I was too young to sample the wares. Subsequent jobs included guitar teacher, freelance musician, newspaper cartoonist, Sunday School teacher, youth leader, research/teaching assistant. All of that simplified when I was 24 and earned a Ph.D. in psychology. Another great job. Then novelist? Oh, my, an embarrassment of riches. Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind readers. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

"I paint, I play the guitar, I like to hang out with intelligent people whose thought processes aren't by stereotype, punditry, political correctness, etc. But enough about me. The important thing is The Book."

More fun facts:
After Kellerman called his literary agent to say that his wife, Faye, had written a novel, the agent reluctantly agreed to take a look ("Later, he told me his eyes rolled all the way back in his head," Kellerman said in an online chat). Two weeks later, a publisher snapped up Faye Kellerman's first book, The Ritual Bath. Faye Kellerman has since written many more mysteries featuring L.A. cop Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus, including the bestsellers Justice and Jupiter's Bones.

When Kellerman wrote When the Bough Breaks in 1981, crime novels featuring gay characters were nearly nonexistent, so Alex Delaware's gay detective friend, Milo Sturgis, was a rarity. Kellerman admits it can be difficult for a straight writer to portray a gay character, but says the feedback he's gotten from readers -- gay and straight -- has been mostly positive.

In his spare time, Kellerman is a musician who collects vintage guitars. He once placed the winning online auction bid for a guitar signed by Don Henley and his bandmates from the Eagles; proceeds from the sale were donated to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

In addition to his novels, Kellerman has written two children's books and three nonfiction books, including Savage Spawn, about the backgrounds and behaviors of child psychopaths.

But for a 1986 television adaptation of When the Bough Breaks, none of Kellerman's work has yet made it to screen. "I wish I could say that Hollywood's beating a path to my door," he said in a Barnes & Noble.com chat in 1998, "but the powers-that-be at the studios don't seem to feel that my books lend themselves to film adaptation. The most frequent problem cited is too much complexity."

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    1. Hometown:
      Beverly Hills, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 9, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Irony can be a rich dessert, so when the contents of the van were publicized, some people gorged. The ones who'd believed Eldon H. Mate to be the Angel of Death.

Those who'd considered him Mercy Personified grieved.

I viewed it through a different lens, had my own worries.

Mate was murdered in the very early hours of a sour-smelling, fog-laden
Monday in September. No earthquakes or wars interceded by sundown, so the death merited a lead story on the evening news. Newspaper headlines in the
Times and the Daily News followed on Tuesday. TV dropped the story within twenty-four hours, but recaps ran in the Wednesday papers. In total, four days of coverage, the maximum in short-attention-span L.A. unless the corpse is that of a princess or the killer can afford lawyers who yearn for Oscars.

No easy solve on this one; no breaks of any kind. Milo had been doing his job long enough not to expect otherwise.

He'd had an easy summer, catching a quartet of lovingly stupid homicides during July and August—one domestic violence taken to the horrible extreme and three brain-dead drunks shooting other inebriates in squalid Westside bars. Four murderers hanging around long enough to be caught. It kept his solve rate high, made it a bit—but not much—easier to be the only openly gay detective in LAPD.

"Knew I was due," he said. It was the Sunday after the murder when he phoned me at the house. Mate's corpse had been cold for six days and the press had moved on.

That suited Milo just fine. Like any artist, he craved solitude. He'd played his part by not giving the press anything to work with. Orders from the brass. One thing he and the brass could agree on: reporters were almost always the enemy.

What the papers HAD printed was squeezed out of clip-file biographies, the inevitable ethical debates, old photos, old quotes. Beyond the fact that
Mate had been hooked up to his own killing machine, only the sketchiest details had been released:

Van parked on a remote section of Mulholland Drive, discovery by hikers just after dawn.


I knew more because Milo told me.

The call came in at 8 P.M., just as Robin and I had finished dinner. I was out the door, holding on to the straining leash of Spike, our little French bulldog. Pooch and I both looking forward to a night walk up the glen. Spike loved the dark because pointing at scurrying sounds let him pretend he was a noble hunter. I enjoyed getting out because I worked with people all day and solitude was always welcome.

Robin answered the phone, caught me in time, ended up doing dog-duty as I
returned to my study.

"Mate's yours?" I said, surprised because he hadn't told me sooner. Suddenly edgy because that added a whole new layer of complexity to my week.

"Who else merits such blessing?"

I laughed softly, feeling my shoulders humping, rings of tension around my neck. The moment I'd heard about Mate I'd worried. Deliberated for a long time, finally made a call that hadn't been returned. I'd dropped the issue because there'd been no good reason not to. It really WASN'T any of my business. Now, with Milo involved, all that had changed.

I kept the worries to myself. His call had nothing to do with my problem.
Coincidence—one of those nasty little overlaps. Or maybe there really are only a hundred people in the world.

His reason for getting in touch was simple: the dreaded W word: whodunit. A
case with enough psychopathology to make me potentially useful.

Also I was his friend, one of the few people left in whom he could confide.

The psychopathology part was fine with me. What bothered me was the friendship component. Things I knew but didn't tell him. COULDN'T tell him.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2001

    Dr. Death a real disappointment

    I was once a die-hard Kellerman fan, and my interest started waning with 'Monster' but I figured I'd give him another chance. In 'Dr. Death', Kellerman's writing style has changed, and not for the better, with corny analogies throughout and none of the comfortable prose that made his earlier books so great. The story itself had potential, but got lost in too many characters which seem to have been drawn in because Kellerman himself lost interest in his own story. I will probably give him one more shot with the next book, and I hope he regains some of what made his earlier stuff worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    You Won't Be Disappointed

    After reading last year's 'Monster', I was surprisingly disappointed with my favorite author. However, 'Dr. Death' is the usual page-turner with richly developed characters and suspense to the end. This time around, Alex works more closely with Milo on the case. Their dialogue and interaction are as enjoyable as trying to figure out the killer's identity. Just wish Robin wasn't so one dimensional - again, she remains in the background with minimal dialogue. My only complaint is I have to wait another year for Alex Delaware's next adventure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2015


    Text 3142620884 i womt be one till sunday i think

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2015


    I got my phone taken away for a month. Ill wait till sunday. Good night

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Really good.

    I liked thee part where Alex and Milo were pretending to be Scottish after they had argued.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    could they get any better

    great storyline, with many twists, one of his greatest books

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2002

    The Dr. is Out

    The author has a wonderful imagination for crime and punishment, and his characters just seem to come to life. The descriptive personality of this book brings out the pure morbidity of the crime at hand for Dr. Alex Delaware and Det. Milo Sturgis to solve, and in the process they get to know the infamous Dr. Death and his assailant. Walk along with them as they catch the killer of a suicide doctor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2001

    Death takes a bow!

    Dr. Eldon Mate, also known as 'Dr. Death', is not a very popular guy. With his 'humanitron', he assists those who wish to die achieve their goals in a 'humane and dignified manner'...even if sometimes he leaves the bodies in cheap hotel rooms for someone else to deal with. Most would consider it a very good day when Mate's body is found brutally butchered inside his own van, hooked up to the 'humanitron'. It is far too obvious to Detective Milo Sturgis and his long-time confidant, Dr. Alex Delaware, that Mate didn't die in the most humane way. Nor did he 'off himself' with his own machine. Their ensuing investigation leads them down many paths...chasing numerous suspects and trying to figure out just as many motives. As a long-time fan of Kellerman's 'Alex Delaware' series, this reader has analyzed the reasons 'Dr. Death', and Kellerman's previous novel, 'Monster', don't live up to Kellerman's obvious potential. Kellerman's earlier books were written about his particular field of expertise...child psychology. In those previous works, his passion shone through with precision and excitement, inherent in his deft portrayal of his characters and his plotlines. He gave Delaware a personal interest in the outcome of his patient's lives, and he took an active interest in the goings-on of the victims. In more recent novels, Kellerman has drifted away from his 'comfort zone' and into areas already deluged with mediocre stories...most of them better plotted, and passionate, at least. While 'Dr. Death' has its moments, with some well-spoken phrases and vivid scenes, his stories seem to lack any real emotion or depth. It's hard to justify his character's involvement in the crime investigations...even though Kellerman displays Delaware as a type of 'consultant' to the case. Delaware has no real reason for being there nor following through on his own hunches, etc. Where once passion was Kellerman's motivation, he's now just some guy sitting at his computer typing up stories. The message in 'Dr. Death' may be socially relevant to our times, but tends to become a bit preachy in spots. The child characters seem mere cardboard cut-outs, gratuitous and out of place. Kellerman disappoints with this latest story. It barely held my interest long enough to find out whodunit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2001

    One word says it all---WOW!!!!!!

    The one thing I hated about this book, was putting it down!!!! It had all the classic trademark 'Kellerman twists', that Monster was sorely lacking. I loved it!!!! This leaves me aching for another Alex Delaware adventure!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2001

    A MUST

    I never wanted was putting it down!!!! A super read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2000


    Tony Award-winner John Rubinstein has read the audio book versions of each of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels. 'Performed' might be a more appropriate word than 'read' as his deliveries are riveting. (Need we say that Kellerman, a master of the psychological thriller, writes can't-put-down tales?) There's a diabolical twist in this story as the man some have described as a killer is killed - Dr. Eldon Mate, a proponent of euthanasia, is murdered in the back of his own vehicle, attached to the mechanism he has used to assist others in ending their lives. Of course, the LAPD seeks assistance from Dr. Alex Delaware who has a few qualms of his own regarding the case. Rife with menacing characters and psychological detail, 'Dr. Death' is Kellerman at the peak of his authorial prowess. In the case of the audiobook Rubinstein's emotionally intense voice is frosting on this devil's food cake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    Another good one!!

    A great reading experience awaits you with this one. Action keeps you going, surprises abound and content has depth. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and put it with my other Kellerman books. Haven't been disappointed yet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    Don't Wait For the Paperback

    I was a little hesitant to read this book after Monster which was such a disappointment. However, in Dr. Death, Alex Delaware is back at his finest. I got this book as a Xmas present and couldn't put it down.

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    Posted February 20, 2013

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    Posted April 9, 2011

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    Posted September 13, 2010

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    Posted May 9, 2011

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    Posted September 6, 2010

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    Posted December 27, 2010

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    Posted August 23, 2012

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