Gone (Alex Delaware Series #20)

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Overview

No one conducts a more chilling, suspenseful, thoroughly engrossing tour through the winding corridors of criminal behavior and the secret chambers of psychopathology than Jonathan Kellerman, the bestselling “master of the psychological thriller” (People). Now the incomparable team of psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide cop Milo Sturgis embark on their most dangerous excursion yet, into the dark places where risk runs high and blood runs cold.

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Overview

No one conducts a more chilling, suspenseful, thoroughly engrossing tour through the winding corridors of criminal behavior and the secret chambers of psychopathology than Jonathan Kellerman, the bestselling “master of the psychological thriller” (People). Now the incomparable team of psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide cop Milo Sturgis embark on their most dangerous excursion yet, into the dark places where risk runs high and blood runs cold.

It’s a story tailor-made for the nightly news: Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand, young lovers and fellow acting students, vanish on the way home from a rehearsal. Three days later, the two of them are found in the remote mountains of Malibu -battered and terrified after a harrowing ordeal at the hands of a sadistic abductor.

The details of the nightmarish event are shocking and brutal: The couple was carjacked at gunpoint by a masked assailant and subjected to a horrific regimen of confinement, starvation and assault.

But before long, doubts arise about the couple’s story, and as forensic details unfold, the abduction is exposed as a hoax. Charged as criminals themselves, the aspiring actors claim emotional problems, and the court orders psychological evaluation for both.

Michaela is examined by Alex Delaware, who finds that her claims of depression and stress ring true enough. But they don’t explain her lies, and Alex is certain that there are hidden layers in this sordid psychodrama that even he hasn’t been able to penetrate.

Nevertheless, the case is closed–only to be violently reopened when Michaela is savagely murdered. When the police look for Dylan, they find that he’s gone. Is he the killer or a victim himself? Casting their dragnet into the murkiest corners of L.A., Delaware and Sturgis unearth more questions than answers–including a host of eerily identical killings. What really happened to the couple who cried wolf? And what bizarre and brutal epidemic is infecting the city with terror, madness, and sudden, twisted death?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
It all seems too strange for words. At first, the police are called to a remote region in the Malibu Mountains, where a pair of drama students are discovered near death. The aspiring actors offer a numbing account of abduction at the hands of a gun-wielding maniac. But under the interrogation of criminal psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, they admit that it was all a hoax. Then, three weeks later, one of them turns up as a corpse….
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR JONATHAN KELLERMAN

RAGE

“[Kellerman is] a master of the grab-the-reader contest. . . . The chills start within the first two pages.”
–Saint Paul Pioneer Press

“[An] adrenaline-fueled read.”
–People

TWISTED

“An elaborate, tangled web . . . with unsuspected turns at every chapter break . . . This addictive tale . . . is as intricately detailed as it is tantalizingly page-turning.”
–Entertainment Weekly

“A perfect whodunit–a tale told with gusto . . . a thrilling, engrossing pace from the first page to the last.”
–Orlando Sentinel

THERAPY

“Labyrinthine twists, excellent pacing, and hard-boiled, swaggering dialogue.”
–The Washington Post

“Immensely enjoyable . . . There’s even a shocking surprise.”
–Associated Press

Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Kellerman's pulse-pounding 20th Alex Delaware novel (after 2005's Rage), the Los Angeles psychologist looks into the murder of attractive 23-year-old Michaela Brand, an aspiring actress. Soon after Michaela and a fellow acting student, 24-year-old Dylan Meserve, achieve their 15 minutes of fame by staging their abduction, their hoax is exposed and Michaela turns up dead in circumstances reminiscent of her faked assault. Delaware joins forces with his sometimes official partner in crime, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, and together they pursue an investigative trail littered with corpses leading to an unconventional acting school and the family of the eccentric woman who runs it. While the murderer's identity may not be that surprising, the author's ability to convey the unrelenting sadness of his characters' lives and his deep psychological insights will satisfy those looking for more than mere thrills. (On sale Mar. 28) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A beautiful naked girl who claims to be fleeing a kidnapper is rescued by a passing motorist, but the abduction is a publicity stunt by two young would-be actors. When the young woman is brutally murdered a few days later, Alex Delaware's detective friend Milo is put on the case. In order to solve the crime, which is just one in a series of similar deaths, Alex and Milo enter the world of the very wealthy, dysfunctional Dowd family. Drug-addicted Nora Dowd runs a drama school for aspiring actors, at no charge; cousin Reynold Petey is the voyeur maintenance man at the school; and Brad, the responsible brother, watches over eccentric sister Nora, retarded brother Billy, and the family's real estate fortune. As more of Nora's acting students are found murdered or missing, Alex and Milo uncover the gory, horrible truth about their disappearances and deaths. Gone is a satisfying, suspense-filled mystery, and John Rubinstein does an excellent job bringing the various characters to life. Highly recommended for public libraries. Ilka Gordon, Park Synagogue Lib., Pepper Pike, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739357071
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Series: Jonathan Kellerman Series , #20
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
  • Sales rank: 951,321
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 6.28 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Kellerman is one of the world’s most popular authors. He has brought his expertise as a clinical psychologist to more than thirty bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, the novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored the bestsellers Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. He is the author of numerous essays, short stories, scientific articles, two children’s books, and three volumes of psychology, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children, as well as the lavishly illustrated 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. Their four children include the novelists Jesse Kellerman and Aliza Kellerman.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

She nearly killed an innocent man.

Creighton “Charley” Bondurant drove carefully because his life depended on it. Latigo Canyon was mile after mile of neck-wrenching, hairpin twists. Charley had no use for government meddlers but the 15 mph signs posted along the road were smart.

He lived ten miles up from Kanan Dume Road, on a four-acre remnant of the ranch his grandfather had owned during Coolidge’s time. All those Arabians and Tennessee walkers and the mules Grandpa kept around because he liked the creatures’ spirit. Charley had grown up with families like his. No-nonsense ranchers, a few rich folk who were still okay when they came up to ride on weekends. Now all you had were rich pretenders.

Diabetic and rheumatoid and depressed, Charley lived in a two-room cabin with a view of oak-covered crests and the ocean beyond. Sixty-eight, never married. Poor excuse for a man, he’d scold himself on nights when the medicines mixed with the beer and his mood sank low.

On happier days, he pretended to be an old cowboy.

This morning, he was somewhere between those extremes. His bunions hurt like hell. Two horses had died last winter and he was down to three skinny white mares and a half-blind sheepdog. Feed and hay bills ate up most of his Social Security. But the nights had been warm for October, and he hadn’t dreamed bad and his bones felt okay.

It was hay that got him up at seven that morning, rolling out of bed, gulping coffee, chewing on a stale sweet roll, to hell with his blood sugar. A little time-out to get the internal plumbing going and by eight he was dressed and starting up the pickup.

Coasting in neutral down the dirt road that fed to Latigo, he looked both ways a couple of times, cleared the crust from his eyes, shifted into first, and rolled down. The Topanga Feed Bin was a twenty-minute ride south and he figured to stop along the way at the Malibu Stop & Shop for a few six-packs, a tin of Skoal, and some Pringles.

Nice morning, a big old blue sky with just a few clouds from the east, sweet air blowing up from the Pacific. Switching on his eight-track, he listened to Ray Price and drove slow enough to stop for deer. Not too many of the pests before dark but you never knew what to expect up in the mountains.

The naked girl jumped out at him a lot faster than any deer.

Eyes full of terror, mouth stretched so wide Charley swore he could see her tonsils.

She ran across the road, straight in the path of his truck, hair blowing wild, waving her arms.

Stomping the brake pedal hard, Charley felt the pickup lurch, wobble, and sway. Then the sharp skid to the left, straight at the battered guardrail that separated him from a thousand foot of nothing.

Hurtling toward blue sky.

He kept hitting the brake. Kept flying. Said his prayers and opened the door and prepared to bail.

His damn shirt stuck on the door handle. Eternity looked real close. What a stupid way to go!

Hands ripping at his shirt fabric, mouth working in a combination of curses and benedictions, Charley’s gnarled body tightened, his legs turned to iron bars, and his sore foot pressed that brake pedal down to the damn floorboard.

The truck kept going, fishtailed, slid, spattered gravel.

Shuddered. Rolled. Bumped the guard.

Charley could hear the rail groan.

The truck stopped.

Charley freed his shirt and got out. His chest was tight and he couldn’t suck any breath into his lungs. Wouldn’t that be the shits: spared a free fall to oblivion only to drop dead of a damned heart attack.

He gasped and swallowed air, felt his field of vision grow black and braced himself against the truck. The chassis creaked and Charley jumped back, felt himself going down again.

A scream pierced the morning. Charley opened his eyes and straightened and saw the girl. Red marks around her wrists and ankles. Bruises around her neck.

Beautiful young body, those healthy knockers bobbing as she came running toward him—sinful to think like that, she was scared, but with knockers like that what else was there to notice?

She kept coming, arms wide, like she wanted Charley to hold her.

But screaming, those wild eyes, he wasn’t sure what to do.

First time in a long time he’d been this close to bare female flesh.

He forgot about the knockers, nothing sexy about this. She was a kid, young enough to be his daughter. Granddaughter.

Those marks on her wrists and ankles, around her neck.

She screamed again.

“Ohgodohgoohgod.”

She was right up to him, now, yellow hair whipping his face. He could smell the fear on her. See the goose bumps on her pretty tan shoulders.

“Help me!”

Poor kid was shivering.

Charley held her.

CHAPTER

2

L.A.’s where you end up when you have nowhere else to go. A long time ago I’d driven west from Missouri, a sixteen-year-old high school graduate armed with a head full of desperation and a partial academic scholarship to the U.

Only son of a moody, hard drinker and a chronic depressive. Nothing to keep me in the flatlands.

Living like a pauper on work-study and occasional guitar gigs in wedding bands, I managed to get educated. Made some money as a psychologist, and a lot more from lucky investments. Got The House In The Hills.

Relationships were another story, but that would’ve been true no matter where I lived.

Back when I treated children, I routinely took histories from parents and learned what family life could be like in L.A. People packing up and moving every year or two, the surrender to impulse, the death of domestic ritual.

Many of the patients I saw lived in sun-baked tracts with no other kids nearby and spent hours each day being bused to and from beige corrals that claimed to be schools. Long, electronic nights were bleached by cathode and thump-thumped by the current angry music. Bedroom windows looked out to hazy miles of neighborhoods that couldn’t really be called that.

Lots of imaginary friends in L.A. That, I supposed, was inevitable. It’s a company town and the product is fantasy.

The city kills grass with red carpets, worships fame for its own sake, demolishes landmarks with glee because the high-stakes game is reinvention. Show up at your favorite restaurant and you’re likely to find a sign trumpeting failure and the windows covered with brown paper. Phone a friend and get a disconnected number.

No Forwarding. It could be the municipal motto.

You can be gone in L.A. for a long time before anyone considers it a problem.

When Michaela Brand and Dylan Meserve went missing, no one seemed to notice.

Michaela’s mother was a former truck-stop cashier living with an oxygen tank in Phoenix. Her father was unknown, probably one of the teamsters Maureen Brand had entertained over the years. Michaela had left Arizona to get away from the smothering heat, gray shrubs, air that never moved, no one caring about The Dream.

She rarely called her mother. The hiss of Maureen’s tank, Maureen’s sagging body, ragged cough, and emphysemic eyes drove her nuts. No room for any of that in Michaela’s L.A. head.

Dylan Meserve’s mother was long dead from an undiagnosed degenerative neuromuscular disease. His father was a Brooklyn-based alto sax player who’d never wanted a rug rat in the first place and had died of an overdose five years ago.

Michaela and Dylan were gorgeous and young and thin and had come to L.A. for the obvious reason.

By day, he sold shoes at a Foot Locker in Brentwood. She was a lunch waitress at a pseudo-trattoria on the east end of Beverly Hills.

They’d met at the PlayHouse, taking an Inner Drama seminar from Nora Dowd.

The last time anyone had seen them was on a Monday night, just after ten p.m., leaving the acting workshop together. They’d worked their butts off on a scene from Simpatico. Neither really got what Sam Shepard was aiming for but the play had plenty of juicy parts, all that screaming. Nora Dowd had urged them to inject themselves in the scene, smell the horseshit, open themselves up to the pain and the hopelessness.

Both of them felt they’d delivered. Dylan’s Vinnie had been perfectly wild and crazy and dangerous, and Michaela’s Rosie was a classy woman of mystery.

Nora Dowd had seemed okay with the performance, especially Dylan’s contribution.

That frosted Michaela a bit but she wasn’t surprised.

Watching Nora go off on one of those speeches about right brain– left brain. Talking more to herself than to anyone else.

The PlayHouse’s front room was set up like a theater, with a stage and folding chairs. The only time it got used was for seminars.

Lots of seminars, no shortage of students. One of Nora’s alumni, a former exotic dancer named April Lange, had scored a role on a sitcom on the WB. An autographed picture of April used to hang in the entry before someone took it down. Blond, shiny-eyed, vaguely predatory. Michaela used to think: Why her?

Then again, maybe it was a good sign. If it could happen to April, it could happen to anyone.

Dylan and Michaela lived in single-room studio apartments, his on Overland, in Culver City, hers on Holt Avenue, south of Pico. Both their cribs were tiny, dark, ground-floor units, pretty much dumps. This was L.A., where rent could crush you and day jobs barely covered the basics and it was hard, sometimes, not to get depressed.

After they didn’t show up at work for two days running, their respective employers fired them.

And that was the extent of it.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Average Read

    Again, I enjoy the Alex Delaware & Milo working relationship.
    I didn't care for this storyline. They appeared to be chasing their tail & wasn't very interesting in my opinion. Kellerman's earlier works were exciting & less predictable. I couldn't wait until his next book was released. This is no longer so.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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