The Barnes & Noble Review
The mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult fascinates me. Being an unruly sort myself, I can't imagine convincing that many egos to go along with anything as final as suicide. Nonetheless, the event struck me then, as it strikes me now, as a wretchedly sad commentary on the spiritual torpor of our time.
Faye Kellerman apparently shares my fascination, for her latest novel is a spellbinder about a cult much like Heaven's Gate, led by the quixotic former scientist Dr. Emil Ganz, a.k.a. Father Jupiter.
Kellerman manages to make this a particularly southern California story, the background noisy and vibrant with the community reaction to the suspicious death of Father Jupiter. If such cults bloomed in New Hampshire, say, we'd have a different ambience here.
The death is an excuse for Kellerman (and her fictional sleuths Pete Decker and Rina Lazarus) to look inside the cult, which she does with great and earnest skill and not without a certain sympathy for what she finds there. A lesser writer would have turned the book into an attack or low comedy. But Kellerman isn't afraid of serious religious speculation, and her look at the cult is both challenging and disturbing. In fact, in places Jupiter's Bones reminds me of Nathanael West's chagrined pity whenever he dealt with the monstrously pathetic.
Did someone inside the cult hate Father Jupiter enough to kill him? Kellerman never forgets that this is a mystery novel and keeps her A plot moving straight ahead at all times. But, like a true novelist, she allows herself and her readers to ruminate on some of the sadder truthsofour time. An excellent novel.
When cult leader Father Jupiter, formerly known as a major academic physicist, is reported dead at the Order of the Rings of God compound, the L.A.P.D.'s Lt. Peter Decker heads the investigation. Along with the expected tidbits on Orthodox Jewish life, Kellerman provides fascinating background on cult psychology, deprogramming, and theoretical physics along with superb character interplay.
A well-tangled web of intrigue and murder.
Mystery shrouded in skin-crawling suspense...It doesn't disappoint.
A willy thriller...murder, mystery, action, and drama make this another winner for a popular author who neatly wraps the plot in very human emotions.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Fast-paced and well-plotted, a treasure for old fans and a treat for new readers...Faye Kellerman is in top form.
Jill M. Smith
Jupiter's Bones returns to the multifaceted and intriguing world of Peter and Rina Decker. What helps make Ms. Kellerman’s novels so special is the balance she finds between the investigative aspects of the plot and the continuing growth and development of well-loved characters.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her 11th Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery (Moon Music, etc.), Kellerman develops the theme of parent-child relationships along two fronts. Before Father Jupiter became the head of a religious cult called the Order of the Rings of God, he was a renowned astrophysicist named Dr. Emil Euler Ganz. Though Jupiter has long been out of touch with his family, when he dies mysteriously his estranged daughter, Europa, becomes a pivotal help to LAPD detective Decker's investigation. Jupiter's death looks like suicide--until the autopsy reveals small amounts of arsenic in his body. Then two of the four remaining cult leaders are killed, prompting the cops to suspect that a serial killer is lurking among the group's members. When the police and FBI try to storm the cult's compound, Brother Bob, Jupiter's old attendant, wires the buildings and threatens to blow up everyone, leaving Decker to figure out how to save the lives of the compound's 96 children. Meanwhile, because of the pressures of the case, Decker is failing to give his two teenage stepsons the attention they need to weather the upheavals of adolescence. He relies on the help of his wife, Rina, to understand the rules of the boys' Jewish orthodox upbringing, but there are aspects of their lives he must take the time to find out on his own. Kellerman writes spine-tingling suspense and defines her characters well, but the scenes in which experts lecture the cops on physics and cult psychology are overlong and sometimes superfluous. Although the Decker/Lazarus family relationship strengthens in this novel, this is not the strongest of the series. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
When Emil Euler Ganz, a brilliant former astrophysicist turned cult leader, is found dead with an empty fifth of vodka under his bed, it looks like suicide. But LAPD Lieutenant Peter Decker is suspicious and begins to ask questions about the man who disappeared 25 years ago only to turn up ten years later as Father Jupiter, the charismatic leader of the Order of the Rings of God. While trying to find out how Father Jupiter died and worrying about the safety of the children in the unstable cult, Decker must also deal with a crisis in his own family when he finds his stepson Jacob in bed with a girl from school. Jupiter's Bones is Kellerman's 13th book--the 11th in the best-selling series featuring Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus. Despite a rather awkward prose style, this is a page-turner. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/99.]--Jane La Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Though this is Kellerman's 11th Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novel, it doesn't disappoint.
Once again, LAPD lieutenant Pete Decker and his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina Lazarus (Serpent's Tooth, 1997, etc.) find themselves needing unorthodox solutions to hard-pressing problems. Domestically, it's their younger son Jacobbrilliant, charming, and oh so bored who's giving his parents heartburn. For instance: Decker arrives home unexpectedly to find Jacob there before him. It's midafternoon, and where Jacob, 16, should have been is at school. Instead, he's in bed. With Shayna, also 16, studying matters extra-curricular. What to do about restless Jacob? And what to do about the mysterious death of Dr. Emil Euler Ganz, a.k.a. Father Jupiter? Once a renowned astrophysicist, Ganz was, until his untimely passing, the leader of a notorious cult called the Order of the Rings of God. But is his passing the suicide it seemed at first, or did someone urge him into that "better world" he so often preached about? Did Guru Pluto, or Guru Nova, or Guru Bobmembers of the Ring's inner circleaspire, prematurely, to Ring-leadership? Decker has his work cut out for him, as he searches for answers while misunderstandings and tensions proliferate almost as fast as dead bodies mount up in the cult's compound. Finally, almost inevitably, there's a standoff as cult members (and their children) are besieged by the police and FBIand here, as in Waco, despite Decker's best efforts, the end is both explosive and painful. Writing that borders on the slipshod in places, though the whole is greater than its parts. And, as usual, Decker, Rina, and their children will generate sufficient interest to keep series fans happy.
Read an Excerpt
"The thing is, they moved the body, Lieutenant."
"What?" Decker strained to hear Oliver's voice over the unmarked's radio static. "Who's they?"
"Whoever's acting as the head honcho of the Order, I guess. Marge did manage to seal off the bedroom. That's where Jupiter was found
"Could you talk up, Scott?"
"-- point being that the crime scene is screwed up, and the body has been messed with because of the shrine."
"Yeah. When we got here, the members were in the process of dressing him and constructing this shrine -- "
"Where's the body now?"
"In a small anteroom off some kind of church -- "
Temple, Decker heard a male voice enunciate from the background. "Someone with you, Detective?"
"Hold on, lemme.. ."
Decker tapped the steering wheel until Scott came back on the line. It took a while.
Oliver held his voice low. "I told them to stop messing with the corpse until you got here. Not being a trusting soul, I've been guarding the body with some self-appointed guru who calls himself Brother Pluto. I sent an officer in there to keep him company so we could talk more privately."
The electronic noise cracked through Decker's ear. He said, "You need to talk louder."
Oliver spoke up. "This Pluto person doesn't want the police here. He keeps insisting that the death was natural, waving this bogus death certificate to prove it, disregarding the empty fifth of Stoli underneath the bed. Which he claims wasn't Jupiter's because Jupiter didn't drink."
"Death certificate?" Decker said. "Has the coroner been there?"
"Nope. It was signed by agent named Brother Nova."
"Got me, sir."
"Did you explain to them what we're doing is standard procedure in sudden deaths?"
"I've tried to explain it, but Pluto's not listening." A laugh. "I've been biting my tongue, refraining from asking him where Goofy was."
Decker smiled. Oliver was showing unusual discretion. "Did you tell him that we have to transport the body to the morgue for autopsy?"
"Been saving the good news for you. Because right now, Pluto and his toons are not happy campers, though I suspect they've never been a cheerful lot. Who called the death in?"
"Jupiter's daughter. Her name is Europa Ganz. She's on the faculty at Southwest University of Technology. Jupiter used to be a hotshot professor there years ago. His real name is Emil Euler Ganz. Apparently, the daughter's not associated with the Order."
"So how'd she find out about the death?"
A good question. "I don't know, Scott. The details are sketchy." He hesitated. "Find out about Ganz's death certificate. This Nova must be a member of the Order, right?"
"I'd assume so. Probably some kind of in-house doctor. But that doesn't qualify him to sign off on Jupiter."
True enough. Decker's finely tuned psycho-BS-detector was on max. He said, "The static is really bad. I'm having trouble hearing you. Just keep status quo until I get there. "
"We're trying. But the parishioners are getting feisty. Is 'parishioners' the right word?"
It was fine with Decker although cult followers seemed more apropos. "Just try to keep everyone quiet."
"How far are you from the holy spot?"
"Four, five miles. Traffic's a little thick. I'll be there in about fifteen minutes."
"See you." Oliver clicked off.
The initial call had come through while Decker was still home, eating breakfast with his younger daughter, who was as skinny as the stick figures she drew. Hannah thought it was great fun to pick the raisins from her oatmeal, leaving behind the grainy mush. Decker was trying to spoon-feed her, attempting to get some nutrition down her gullet until Rina aptly pointed out that the child was five, and capable of feeding herself.
He lived about twenty minutes by freeway from the station house, about thirty-five minutes from the crime scene. That was on good days, and today wasn't one of them. Decker ran his left hand through strands of ginger hair now streaked with white, and settled into the seat of the unmarked Buick. He guzzled strong coffee from a thermos. Across the passenger's seat was the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
Eight-oh-five and nothing was moving.
Inching his way up to the next off-ramp, he decided to exit and take Devonshire. The boulevard was one of the main east-west arteries through the San Fernando Valley, six lanes lined with strip malls, wholesalers and industrial warehouses. Going farther west, the street's industry gave way to residences-stucco ranch houses sitting on flat land that once held agricultural orchards -- oranges, lemons, apricots. He and Rina had recently purchased a house in the area, intending to move in after a few minor renovations.
Which had turned (predictably) into a major overhaul.
He could have done the job himself if he hadn't been gainfully employed. So they bit the bullet, hiring subs while Rina acted as the contractor. One day, Decker had come to the property to find his wife precariously balanced on a ladder, pointing out to the roofer a defect near the chimney. Her skin blew in the wind as she spoke animatedly, though Decker couldn't hear a word of the conversation. Apparently the roofer had run the hose over the top of the house for twenty minutes, proudly pronouncing the place water-tight. But Rina had been skeptical. She had run the hose for three hours, discovering a leak after two hours and twenty minutes.
(The first rain would have ruined the hardwood floors, Peter.)
Decker smiled, thinking about her image -- that of his Orthodox Jewish wife perched on the highest rung of a tall ladder, one hand pointing out flaws while the other held down that hat she wore to cover her hair.
The scene helped to buoy his spirits. The day was gray and dirty, typical overcast May weather in Los Angeles. At least the cars were moving. He proceeded west into open terrain, the foothills on the right greened by the recent rains. They had become rolling waves of wild grass and flowers, spewing their pollens, making it a miserable allergy season. What Decker wouldn't have given to have the Allegra concession this year. Jupiter's Bones. Copyright © by Faye Kellerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.