The Murder Book (Alex Delaware Series #16)

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In seventeen consecutive bestselling novels, Jonathan Kellerman has distinguished himself as the master of the psychological thriller. Now in Kellerman's most compelling and powerful novel yet, L.A. psychologist-detective Alex Delaware confronts a long-unsolved murder of unspeakable brutality -- an ice-cold case whose resolution threatens his survival, and that of longtime friend, homicide detective, Milo Sturgis.

The nightmare begins when Alex receives a strange package in the ...

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The Murder Book (Alex Delaware Series #16)

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In seventeen consecutive bestselling novels, Jonathan Kellerman has distinguished himself as the master of the psychological thriller. Now in Kellerman's most compelling and powerful novel yet, L.A. psychologist-detective Alex Delaware confronts a long-unsolved murder of unspeakable brutality -- an ice-cold case whose resolution threatens his survival, and that of longtime friend, homicide detective, Milo Sturgis.

The nightmare begins when Alex receives a strange package in the mail with no return address. Inside is an ornate album filled with gruesome crime scene photos -- a homicide scrapbook entitled The Murder Book. Alex can find no reason for anyone to send him this compendium of death, but when Milo views the book, he is immediately shaken by one of the images: a young woman, tortured, strangled, and dumped near a freeway ramp.

This was one of Milo's first cases as a rookie homicide cop: a vicious killing that he failed to solve, because just as he and his training partner began to make headway, the department closed them down. Being forced to abandon the young victim tormented Milo. But his fears prevented him from pursuing the truth, and over the years he managed to forget. Or so he thought.

Now, two decades later, someone has chosen to stir up the past. As Alex and Milo set out to uncover what really happened twenty years ago, their every move is followed and their lives are placed in jeopardy. The relentless investigation reaches deep into L.A.'s nerve-centers of power and wealth-past and present. While peeling back layer after layer of ugly secrets, they discover that the murder of one forgotten girl has chilling ramifications that extend far beyond the tragic loss of a single life.

A classic story of good and evil, sacrifice and sin, The Murder Book is a gripping page-turner that illuminates the darkest corridors of the human mind. It is a stunning tour de force.

About the Author
Jonathan Kellerman is one of the world's most popular authors. He has brought his expertise as a clinical psychologist to numerous bestselling tales of suspense (which have been translated into two dozen languages), including fifteen 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 Flesh and Blood. 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. Jonathan Kellerman has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards, and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. He and his wife, the novelist Faye Kellerman, have four children.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
As the multitudes of Jonathan Kellerman fans already know, his novels are a skillful blending of fast-paced action and adept character development. In his 13th gripping dark crime tale featuring L.A. psychologist Alex Delaware, Kellerman turns in another engaging, cunningly crafted story that will leave you moved and electrified.

Alex receives an intriguing package containing a picture album entitled "The Murder Book," which features dozens of graphic photos of actual homicide cases. When he shows it to longtime friend detective Milo Sturgis, Milo is enticed by one particular photo: that of a girl brutally murdered 20 years earlier. It's a case the young Milo and his then-partner, Pierce Schwinn, failed to solve. After Schwinn was forced into retirement for questionable behavior, Milo was transferred to another squad, and the case went cold. Using some clues from two decades earlier, Alex and Milo immediately set their sights on a family of primary suspects: the wealthy and powerful Cossacks. As Alex finds himself drawn further into a web of madness, he seems unable -- or unwilling -- to stop himself from confronting all that the darkest heart of evil can show him.

A highly readable novel full of absorbing incidents, The Murder Book is another powerful entry in the Alex Delaware canon. Kellerman does an astounding job of fleshing out his characters, especially Milo Sturgis, whom we see as a young police officer trapped in an unfamiliar world of casual murder and decadence. Beautifully constructed, with a narrative voice that mesmerizes with its pace and finesse, The Murder Book is one you can't live without. Tom Piccirilli

Nearly perfect Murder
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Kellerman's 16th Alex Delaware novel is a hoot of a whodunit, a classic puzzler to keep the most staid traditionalist gleefully scratching his or her head until the wee hours. It's also a noir of gothic proportions, a descent into a California hell, in which Delaware shares the spotlight with his longtime friend and colleague, Det. Milo Sturgis. When somebody sends Alex a three-ring binder full of grisly police photographs of crime scenes with "The Murder Book" in gold letters on the front cover, Milo is stunned to discover a picture of the mutilated body of Janie Ingalls, a Hollywood High sophomore, whose vicious murder he investigated 20 years before. Milo was just a rookie detective then, partnered with a hard-nosed veteran, Pierce Schwinn. The pair made some progress with the case, but were pulled off it and split up because Schwinn stepped on some big toes. Milo suspects the book has come from Schwinn, an invitation to take up the old case that has haunted them both for years. He and Alex begin to follow a trail that will lead them high up the social ladder and down among the dregs of society. It is a step-by-step, clue-by-clue process beloved of mystery fans, and Kellerman handles it masterfully. By the end there are an awful lot of characters to keep track of, and the biff-boom-bang finale seems too much, but no one's perfect. This may be the best Kellerman in years. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Like Kinsey Millhone, Alex Delaware is up against a long-unresolved case, which just happens to involve politics. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345413901
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Series: Alex Delaware Series, #16
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.85 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman is one of the world’s most popular authors. He has brought his expertise as a clinical psychologist to numerous bestselling tales of suspense (which have been translated into two dozen languages), including fifteen 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 Flesh and Blood. 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. Jonathan Kellerman has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards, and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. 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 & "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 & 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

The day I got the murder book, I was still thinking about Paris. Red wine, bare trees, gray river, city of love. Everything that happened there. Now, this.

Robin and I flew in to Charles de Gaulle airport on a murky Monday in January. The trip had been my idea of a surprise. I’d pulled it together in one manic night, booking tickets on Air France and a room at a small hotel on the outskirts of the Eighth arrondissement, packing a suitcase for two, speeding the 125 freeway miles to San Diego. Showing up at Robin’s room at the Del Coronado just before midnight with a dozen coral roses and a voilà! grin.

She came to the door wearing a white T-shirt and a hip-riding red sarong, auburn curls loose, chocolate eyes tired, no makeup. We embraced, then she pulled away and looked down at the suitcase. When I showed her the tickets, she turned her back and shielded me from her tears. Outside her window the night black ocean rolled, but this was no holiday on the beach. She’d left L.A. because I’d lied to her and put myself in danger. Listening to her cry now, I wondered if the damage was irreparable.

I asked what was wrong. As if I had nothing to do with it.

She said, “I’m just . . . surprised.”

We ordered room-service sandwiches, she closed the drapes, we made love.

“Paris,” she said, slipping into a hotel bathrobe. “I can’t believe you did all this.” She sat down, brushed her hair, then stood. Approached the bed, stood over me, touched me. She let the robe slither from her body, straddled me, shut her eyes, lowered a breast to my mouth. When she came the second time, she rolledaway, went silent.

I played with her hair and, as she fell asleep, the corners of her mouth lifted. Mona Lisa smile. In a couple of days, we’d be queuing up as robotically as any other tourists, straining for a glimpse of the real thing.

She’d fled to San Diego because a high school chum lived there—a thrice-married oral surgeon named Debra Dyer, whose current love interest was a banker from Mexico City. (“So many white teeth, Alex!”) Francisco had suggested a day of shlock-shopping in Tijuana followed by an indeterminate stay at a leased beach house in Cabo San Lucas. Robin, feeling like a fifth wheel, had begged off, and called me, asking if I’d join her.

She’d been nervous about it. Apologizing for abandoning me. I didn’t see it that way, at all. Figured her for the injured party.

I’d gotten myself in a bad situation because of poor planning. Blood had spilled and someone had died. Rationalizing the whole thing wasn’t that tough: Innocent lives had been at stake, the good guys had won, I’d ended up on my feet. But as Robin roared away in her truck, I faced the truth:

My misadventures had little to do with noble intentions, lots to do with a personality flaw.

A long time ago, I’d chosen clinical psychology, the most sedentary of professions, telling myself that healing emotional wounds was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. But it had been years since I’d conducted any long-term therapy. Not because, as I’d once let myself believe, I’d burned out on human misery. I had no problem with misery. My other life force-fed me gobs of misery.

The truth was cold: Once upon a time I had been drawn to the humanity and the challenge of the talking cure, but sitting in the office, dividing hour after hour by three quarters, ingesting other people’s problems, had come to bore me.

In a sense, becoming a therapist had been a strange choice. I’d been a wild boy—poor sleeper, restless, overactive, high pain threshold, inclined to risk-taking and injuries. I quieted down a bit when I discovered books but found the classroom a jail and raced through school in order to escape. After graduating high school at sixteen, I bought an old car with summer-job cash, ignored my mother’s tears and my father’s scowling vote of no-confidence, and left the plains of Missouri. Ostensibly for college, but really for the threat and promise of California.

Molting like a snake. Needing something new.

Novelty had always been my drug. I craved insomnia and menace punctuated by long stretches of solitude, puzzles that hurt my head, infusions of bad company and the delicious repellence of meeting up with the slimy things that coiled under psychic rocks. A racing heart jolted me happy. The kick start of adrenaline punching my chest made me feel alive.

When life slowed down for too long, I grew hollow.

But for circumstance, I might’ve dealt with it by jumping out of airplanes or scaling bare rocks. Or worse.

Years ago, I’d met a homicide detective and that changed everything.

Robin had put up with it for a long time. Now she’d had enough and, sooner rather than later, I’d have to make some kind of decision.

She loved me. I know she did.

Maybe that’s why she made it easy for me.



In Paris, clichés are just fine.    You leave your hotel, step out into the winter drizzle, walk aimlessly until you find yourself at café near the Jardin des Tuileries where you order overpriced baguettes and grainy, French-press coffee, then move on to the Louvre, where even during the off-season the lines prove daunting. So you cross the Seine on the Pont Royal, ignoring the motor din that washes the bridge, study the murk of the water below, try the Musée d’Orsay and murder your feet for a couple of hours, sucking in the fruits of genius. Then, deeper into the grubby side streets of the Left Bank, where you press yourself into the all-in-black throng, and laugh inwardly at an imagined wheezy accordion sound track overpowering the burping motor scooters and the whining Renaults.

It was early afternoon, near a shop in St. Germain, when it happened.

Robin and I had stopped into a dark, narrow men’s haberdashery with a window full of aggressive neckties and slouching mannequins with pickpocket eyes. The rain had been coming in fitful bursts all day. The umbrella we’d cadged from the hotel concierge wasn’t generous enough to shelter both of us and we each ended up more than half-wet. Robin didn’t seem to mind. Her curls were beaded with droplets and her cheeks were flushed. She’d been quiet since we’d boarded the plane in L.A., sleeping for most of the flight, refusing dinner. This morning, we’d woken up late and barely talked. During the walk across the river, she seemed distracted—staring off at nothing in particular, holding my hand, then dropping it, then grabbing again and squeezing hard, as if scrambling to cover for some infraction. I put it down to jet lag.

The St. Germain stroll led us past a private school where beautiful, chittering adolescents spilled out onto the sidewalk, then a bookstore where I’d intended to browse until Robin pulled me into the cloth- ing store, saying, “These are good silks, Alex. You could use something new.”

The store peddled menswear, but smelled like a nail salon. The shopgirl was a skinny thing with hacked-up hair the color of eggplant rind and the anxiety of a new hire. Robin took a while thumbing through the goods, finally found me a very blue shirt and an extravagant red-and-gold tie of heavy weave, got my nod, asked the girl to wrap it up. Aubergine Tresses scurried to a back room and returned with a stout, cardiganed woman in her sixties who sized me up, took the shirt, and returned moments later brandishing a steaming iron in one hand and the garment in the other—newly pressed, on a hanger, shielded by a clear plastic bag.

“Talk about service,” I said, as we returned to the street. “Hungry?”

“No, not yet.”

“You didn’t touch breakfast.”


The stout woman had followed us out and was standing in the doorway of the shop. She looked up at the sky dubiously. Checked her watch. Seconds later, thunder clapped. Flashing us a satisfied smile, she went back inside.

The rain was harder, colder. I tried to draw Robin under the umbrella but she resisted, remained out in the open, raised her face and caught the spray full force. A man scrambling for cover turned to stare.

I reached for her again. She continued to balk, licked moisture from her lips. Smiled faintly, as if enjoying a private joke. For a moment I thought she’d share it. Instead, she pointed to a brasserie two doors up the street and ran in ahead of me.

“Bonnie Raitt,” I repeated.

We were at a tiny table tucked in a corner of the clammy brasserie. The restaurant floor was a grubby mesh of white tile and the walls were cloudy mirrors and oft-painted brown woodwork. A clinically depressed waiter brought us our salads and wine as if service was harsh penance. Rain washed the front window and turned the city to gelatin.

“Bonnie,” she said. “Jackson Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin, maybe others.”

“Three-month tour.”

“At least three months,” she said, still avoiding my eyes. “If it goes international, it could stretch longer.”

“World hunger,” I said. “Good cause.”

“Famine and child welfare,” she said.

“Nothing nobler.”

She turned to me. Her eyes were dry and defiant.

“So,” I said. “You’re an equipment manager, now. No more guitar-making?”

“There’ll be luthiery involved. I’ll be overseeing and repairing all the gear.”

I’ll, not I’d. One-vote-election, nothing tentative.

“When exactly did you get the offer?” I said.

“Two weeks ago.”

“I see.”

“I know I should’ve said something. It wasn’t—it dropped in my lap. Remember when I was at Gold-Tone Studios and they needed those vintage archtops for that retro Elvis video? The tour manager happened to be in the next booth, watching some mixing, and ended up talking.”

“Sociable fellow.”

“Sociable woman,” she said. “She had her dog with her—an English bulldog, a female. Spike started playing with her and we started talking.”

“Animal magnetism,” I said. “Is the tour dog-friendly, or do I keep Spike?”

“I’d like to take him along.”

“I’m sure that’ll thrill him to no end. When do you leave?”

“In a week.”

“A week.” My eyes hurt. “Lots of packing ahead.”

She lifted her fork and pronged dead lettuce leaves. “I can call it off—”

“No,” I said.

“I wouldn’t have even considered it, Alex, not for the money—”

“Good money?”

She named the figure.

“Very good money,” I said.

“Listen to what I’m saying, Alex: That doesn’t matter. If you’re going to hate me, it can be undone.”

“I don’t hate you, and you don’t want it undone. Maybe you accepted the offer because I made you unhappy, but now that you’ve committed yourself, you’re seeing all kinds of positives.”

I craved argument but she didn’t answer. The restaurant was filling, drenched Parisians seeking shelter from the downpour.

“Two weeks ago,” I said, “I was running around with Milo on Lauren Teague’s murder. Hiding what I was doing from you. I was stupid to think this trip would make a difference.”

She pushed salad around. The room had grown hotter, smaller; scowling people crowded tiny tables, others stood huddled at the doorway. The waiter began to approach. Robin repelled him with a glare.

She said, “I’ve felt so alone. For a while. You were gone all the time. Putting yourself in situations. I didn’t bring up the tour, because I knew you couldn’t—shouldn’t be distracted.”

She rolled the side of a small fist along the table rim. “I guess I’ve always felt that what you do is important and that what I do is . . . just craft.” I started to speak but she shook her head. “But this last time, Alex. Meeting with that woman, seducing her. Planning a damned date in order to—your intentions were good, but it still came down to seduction. Using yourself as a . . .”

“Whore?” I said. Thinking suddenly about Lauren Teague. A girl I’d known a long time ago, from my quiet job. She’d sold her body, ended up head-shot and dumped in an alley . . .

“I was going to say ‘lure.’ Despite all we’ve had together—this supposed enlightened relationship we’ve got, you go about your own business. . . . Alex, basically you’ve built this whole other life from which I’m excluded. From which I want to be excluded.”

She reached for her wineglass, sipped, made a face.

“Bad vintage?”

“Fine vintage. I’m sorry, baby, I guess it just comes down to timing. Getting the offer exactly when I was so down.” She grabbed my hand, squeezed hard. “You love me, but you left me, Alex. It made me realize how alone I’d been for so long. We both were. The difference is, you enjoy going it alone—you get high on solitude and danger. So when Trish and I started talking and she told me she’d heard about my work—my reputation—and all of a sudden I realized I had a reputation, and here was someone offering me great money and the chance for something of my own, I said yes. Just blurted it out. And then driving home, I panicked, and said, What did you just do? And told myself I’d have to renege and wondered how I’d do it without looking like an idiot. But then I got home and the house was empty and all of a sudden I didn’t want to renege. I went out to my studio and cried. I still might’ve changed my mind. I probably would’ve. But then you arranged that date with that tramp and . . . it felt completely right. It still does.”

She looked out the rain-clouded window. “Such a beautiful city. I never want to see it again.”

The weather remained gray and wet and we kept to our room. Being together was agonizing: suppressed tears, edgy silences, too-polite chitchat, listening to the rain tormenting the dormer windows. When Robin suggested we return early to L.A., I told her I’d try to change her ticket but I’d be staying for a while. That hurt her but it also relieved her and the next day when the cab showed up to take her to the airport, I car- ried her bags, held her elbow as she got into the taxi, paid the driver in advance.

“How long will you be staying?” she said.

“Don’t know.” My teeth ached.

“Will you be back before I leave?”


“Please be, Alex.”

“I will.”

Then: the kiss, the smile, trembling hands concealed.

As the taxi drove away I strained for a look at the back of her head—a tremor, a slump, any sign of conflict, regret, grief.

Impossible to tell.

Everything moved too fast.

From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright 2002 by Jonathan Kellerman
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jonathan Kellerman
Author of

Q: Where did the idea for The Murder Book come from?

A: This particular novel grew out of my desire to learn more about Milo. When I wrote my first Delaware novel, When the Bough Breaks, I never thought it was going to get published let alone that I would write a series. I followed it up with two more Delaware stories and then a non-Delaware novel. At that point I said to myself if I’m going to do more books about this guy I want to learn more about him. So the next novel in the series, Silent Partner, featured Delaware as the protagonist. He wasn’t just a professional solving a problem for others; he was the focus of the story. I did the same thing again in Bad Love. The Murder Book takes that same approach for Milo. He has been a major character of the series since the beginning—to some extent as important a character as Alex himself—and I wanted to further explore his life. The story also grew out of my desire to write a book that resonated beyond the crime story. The Murder Book explores Los Angeles in greater depth than previous books in the series. It’s a classic novel of corruption that spans several decades. I know that’s been done before but I thought I could put a unique slant on it.

Q: You’re already well known for documenting the social and economic climate of Los Angeles. How is this book different?

A: It’s not different in type as much as in degree. While I always go back in the past—I’m enough of a psychologist to believe you can’t escape the past, you have to deal with it—The Murder Book provides more of a historical perspective on Los Angeles by going back in time and dealing with changes in the city over a twenty-year period. I’ve always considered Los Angeles a character in my books. I’m often identified as a writer of psychological thrillers. But reviewers have also noted these are very much LA novels, and that’s how I see them. With the exception of one book all my novels have taken place here. I think that puts me well within the tradition of Southern California hardboiled detective writers.

Q: What is it about Los Angeles that so fascinates you?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by the extreme disparities between the haves and the have-nots in this town. They’ve become much more acute over the years and helped turn Los Angeles into a Third World colony. They also lead to anger and tension and frustration and hunger, which in turn breeds crime and extreme behavior. And although Delaware does solve mysterious puzzles, what he’s really exploring is human behavior under extreme circumstances. I’m also fascinated by the influence of the film industry here. I’ve lived in Los Angeles since I was a kid—since 1959—and over the years I’ve watched this city become more of a company town than ever before. Los Angeles used to have a much greater range of businesses. Today it is permeated through and through by the film industry—not just economically but in its entire zeitgeist. There’s a blurring of reality and fantasy here that’s almost palpable.

Q: Prior to the 1985 publication of your debut novel—the first in the Delaware series—you spent fourteen years churning out a slew of novels that ended up being rejected. What changed for you as a writer that allowed you to make that breakthrough?

A: There were a couple of things that changed. In 1981 I realized I needed to approach fiction writing more professionally. I had always used writing as a catharsis. Well, if you want to do that you might as well write for yourself and stick your work in a drawer. If you want to write for other people you need to approach it as you would a job. I began writing with a lot more discipline. I outlined and polished and rewrote and honed it. In other words I worked a lot harder at my writing and took it much more seriously. By that time I also had much more to say because I had had some interesting life experiences. When I won the Goldwyn award at age 21 I was the epitome of callow. I wasn’t experienced enough to have anything significant to offer. But by the time I was in my early thirties I was a veteran psychologist. I had worked in the trenches long enough to have something to say about human misery. That enabled me to write a more interesting story.

Q: Up until that time you had worked very hard at keeping your identity as a psychologist separate from your fiction. Why?

A: Essentially it was cowardice. I was afraid to reveal anything about myself. On some level all fiction is biography. If you’re going to succeed as a fiction writer you have to be willing to put yourself on the line. It took a long time before I was ready to do that.

Q: To what extent do you draw on specific experiences from your years as a hospital psychologist in writing the Delaware novels?

A: I’ve never drawn on my list of patients to depict specific individuals or families in distress. And I never will. But I certainly know what it’s like for families or individuals to be under stress. During my time as a hospital psychologist I treated thousands of children suffering from chronic and terminal diseases, birth defects, handicaps, and injuries. I also dealt with the aftermath of alcoholism, drug abuse, homicide, suicide, divorce, rape, physical abuse, sexual molestation, and grinding poverty. I like to think what I learned in those years imbues my writing with emotional authenticity. I also benefited from the fact that Children’s Hospital was multi-cultural in the strictest sense. I was dealing with people of every conceivable background: paupers and the idle rich, educated and uneducated, Black, White, Hispanic, you name it. I couldn’t have found a better training ground to be a writer if I had tried. In retrospect I’m glad I was a rejected writer for fourteen years. It gave me a chance to learn.

Q: Do you ever go back and reread your earlier novels?

A: Very rarely. In my down time the last thing I want to do is read my own work. I’d rather read the works of other authors and spend time with family and friends. Except for the occasional need to check a fact or two, I rarely go back to my previous works. When I write a novel I live with it every day for about a year. And during that process I tend not to be too introspective. I think to some extent introspection can be the enemy of productivity. One reason I’ve been able to write so many books is I focus on each project to the exclusion of all else. I have no doubt that if I did read my earlier books I’d spot things I wouldn't necessarily do today. That notwithstanding, on those few occasions when I do leaf through an old passage the work seems to hold up pretty well. When the Bough Breaks came out more than 20 years ago and still sells at a steady pace. Apparently when people pick up a new Delaware novel they often decide to go back and check out the older ones. I get a big kick out of that. It’s a very gratifying feeling.

Q: Writers often talk about finding their “voice.” How do you describe your writer’s voice?

A: I don’t think about it much. It’s just the way the words come out of my head. I’d much rather write than talk about writing. What people say they like about my books is the sense of place and the memorable characters. And they like the psychology—the insights they feel they’re getting. They like that peek into another world. My voice in the Delaware novels tends to be somewhat hardboiled. There’s an element of cynicism in it. It’s the outsider, the observer, looking in. And that’s what a psychologist is. The stories are rarely about Delaware himself but rather about what he sees and the people who talk to him. The voice is that of the observer offering comments to others or, more often, to himself. Much of the story in these books takes place in Alex’s head. That’s why they’re not turned into movies. A lot of what goes on is internal.

Q: What inspired you to make Milo Sturgis, Delaware’s partner in crime solving, a gay homicide detective?

A: I wish I could say it was some great sensitivity on my part. I never liked the notion of an amateur detective coming in and showing up the cops. I felt a psychologist who worked with cops was much more plausible. Once I figured that out I knew I had to have a policeman in the story and I wanted to avoid the boring cliché of the gruff, grizzled veteran detective. This was back in 1981 and I knew the LAPD officially had no gay officers. So I thought making Milo gay would create a certain amount of tension. Ironically, one of the guys who wants to be the next police chief here is a gay, Jewish associate chief. That shows how far things have come at the LAPD. But back then a gay homicide detective was a revolutionary concept and certainly played against stereotype. For the same reason I had Delaware’s first girlfriend working with power tools while he was the one dealing with emotions. What interests me in the world are the exceptions rather than the norm.

Q: Among the secondary characters in The Murder Book are several Los Angeles real estate moguls. Are they based on anyone in particular?

A: No. That’s always been a point of pride with me. The fun of writing fiction is in making things up. And because I came to fiction as a psychologist I was always careful not to betray confidentiality. That made me a better writer because it forced me to use my imagination. In Silent Partner I had a Howard Hughes-like character. I viewed him not as a person but as an icon, a metaphor, and a larger than life figure. In Flesh and Blood I had a character that was a colleague of Hugh Hefner. But he was quite different from Hefner. These guys were made up of a whole cloth, as are all my characters. Each time you write a book you’re creating new people. It’s a godlike illusion.

Q: A well-known quote about writers suggests they hate to write but love having written. Is writing easy or hard for you?

A: That’s a tough question to answer. In one sense it’s very easy. I never get writer’s block. Words just seem to flow out of me. But that’s because I outline compulsively in order to get a firm grip on my stories, which tend to be very plot heavy. It’s not that I love plotting but I believe a writer should never cheat the reader. That plotting process is hard work. The writing I find most difficult is non-fiction, which requires you to aim for clarity and elegance of style. Fiction writing allows you much more leeway because you’re creating a whole world.

Q: Your wife, Faye Kellerman, is also a well-known best-selling author. What’s it like to be married to a fellow writer? Do you talk about writing or give each other feedback on story ideas?

A: It’s great being married to another writer. One of the nice things about our situation is we don’t compete with each other because we were married for 12 or 13 years before we got published. And neither of us came to writing from an English department background. (Mine was psychology; hers was theoretical mathematics and dentistry.) We don’t trade ideas but we do read each other’s books. It’s a great luxury having an in-house critic who’s really constructive and on your side. We used to read each other’s work in progress every week or so but over the years we’ve gotten more secure in our own abilities. Nowadays, instead of looking for help from each other we basically say, “read it and have fun with it.” Fortunately we enjoy each other’s stuff. When we do “talk shop” we tend to focus on the business side of publishing—which can be very strange—as opposed to the creative side.

Q: Twenty-five years ago you helped found a psychosocial rehabilitation program for kids with cancer at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA). The program endures to this day and is considered one of the finest of its kind in the country. Are you still actively involved?

A: Not directly. I’m still a Clinical Professor of Pediatric Psychology at USC’s School of Medicine and a Clinical Professor of Psychology at USC’s Department of Psychology. Although I don’t do a lot of teaching I do occasionally supervise grad students, post-doctoral fellows, medical residents, and so on. Some of my students are full professors. I try to keep in touch with the field. Aside from that my main contact now is philanthropic in nature. For example, our foundation recently funded a quality of life research study at CHLA of children with brain tumors.

Q: We’ve talked about how your work as a clinical psychologist played a major role in what you bring to the Delaware character. Does your work as a writer impact what you do as teacher and psychologist?

A: I don’t think it does. When I sit there with a grad student talking about a case, we’re just talking about the case. I’m a psychologist again, not a writer.

Q: How does it make you feel to know, twenty-five years later, that the CHLA program you directed and help found has been so successful and changed so many lives for the better?

A: I was there for only a few years but I consider myself very fortunate to have been part of that program. Like most people who become healthcare professionals I became a psychologist because I really wanted to help people. It was a chance to give something back and make a difference in people’s lives. I treated a lot of kids and they got better. There’s no greater feeling in the world. With perhaps one exception I’ve always considered the work I did as a psychologist much more important than what I did and continue to do as a novelist because when you get right down to it fiction writing is very narcissistic work.

Q: What was the exception?

A: In 1993 I published a book called Devil's Waltz, a Delaware novel that dealt with a condition known as Munchausen by Proxy, a dangerous form of child abuse in which a parent induces symptoms in his or her child in order to win the attention of healthcare professionals. At the time few people had heard of the syndrome, including most doctors. After the book came out I got a number of calls from doctors and nurses around the country who said, “You know, we have this kid and we didn’t know what the hell was going on with him…and now we know.” That novel saved lives. It was incredible.

Q: Is there any part of you that misses your old life as a psychologist?

A: No. I like what I’m doing now. But it did take me a while to totally let that old life go. I wrote three books while working full-time as a psychologist. Eventually, however, I had to give it up. The demands were antithetical to what I wanted to accomplish as a writer and what I needed to do for my publisher. For example, it’s difficult for a psychologist to just up and leave town. But publishers want you to go on book tours and travel. I decided I was going to try writing full time to see if I liked it and so I eased out of my practice. (It took a couple of years to finish up with the kids I was seeing.) What I really like about full-time writing is the personal freedom. As a therapist every hour of my day was booked up for months. I’d routinely have nine or ten appointments per day. Now I can wake up and say, “Gee, I can do whatever I want.” It’s very liberating. Fortunately, one of the things I got from my former career was a strong sense of discipline. A lot of people have difficulty dealing with a lack of structure in their lives. If they have too much leisure time they get nothing done. Because of my years as a psychologist that was never an issue for me.

Q: What do you consider your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?

A: Sometimes I think I get a little too wordy. I’m always trying to rein myself in and say more with less. At the start of each day’s writing I always go back and revise my work from the day before. I consciously try to make sure I’m not over-writing. Perhaps my greatest strength is the psychological insight I bring to my fiction. I like to think there’s a certain unique quality to what I do but that’s up to other people to judge. I also think I have a pretty good sense of place. And people tell me I’m a very vivid writer; that there are scenes and characters that stick out in their minds. I also like to think I bring a sense of compassion to my writing. I’m basically an optimist. I don’t want pat happy endings but I also don’t see a need to write an ending that’s morose. People should be entertained when they read. Arguments over whether a piece of writing is entertainment or literature are nonsensical and pretentious. If we don’t stray too far from our caveman ancestors sitting around a fire telling stories, that’s okay. Some of the world’s most enduring classics are simply great stories at heart.

Q: What’s the most important thing your reading public should know about you?

A: How much I appreciate them. Like most writers I write for myself and not an audience. But at the same time I have a profound appreciation for my readers. It’s a great thing to take a project from initial concept to finished book, put it out in the public, and have people not only buy what you’ve written but also come back again and again for more. I couldn’t do this without them.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2002


    Award-winning Broadway and television actor John Rubinstein gives a deftly calibrated reading to this chilling tale by ace writer Jonathan Kellerman. It's Kellerman's 17th and bound to be one more bestseller for the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony winner. Popular protagonist Alex Delaware, a Los Angles based psychologist/detective is in the middle of the scariest scenario to date as he tackles a long unsolved murder of unspeakable brutality. Should he be successful he may not live long enough to savor any triumph. An odd unmarked package arrives in Delaware's mailbox. It is a picture album no one would wish to see - a collection of crime scene photos called The Murder Book. Although Delaware has seen many grisly sights he is taken aback by the photo of a young woman ruthlessly slain and left by a freeway ramp. This had been one of the first cases ever investigated by Delaware's buddy, homicide detective Milo Sturgis. The case went unsolved because the department closed the investigation. It had been years ago, and Sturgis thought he had forgotten the heinous crime, but had he? It is up to Delaware and Sturgis to try to rediscover the past and solve a stone cold crime, even though it means placing their own lives in jeopardy. A topnotch author and a first-rate reader make for a compelling combination.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2014

    Loved it

    I have read almost all of the Alex Delaware books. I thought that I had finished all 29 of this series, but when I checked my list, there were still two that I had inadvertently missed. This was one of them. I was happy that his books always have a way to keep you involved with the characters. Next I will finish the series with Private Eyes. I enjoy his books and love his descriptions of people and places. Enjoyable, even out of order.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2013

    Great one.

    I liked the backstory on Schwinn and Milo's first few cases.

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  • Posted December 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    CD/Abridged/Fiction: Book 16 of the Alex Delaware series. John

    CD/Abridged/Fiction: Book 16 of the Alex Delaware series. John Rubinstein's narration saves this confusing book. There is way too much coincidence and convenience. Alex receives a "murder book" and Milo recognizes one of the pictures as a unsolved case he had 20 years ago. You quickly learn that there was a cover-up, but the mystery is why. I think this book would be better unabridged. I think part of the problem was the abridgement. To me, a lot of the politics made no sense.
    So why four stars? Well, I have listened to this series out of order so I know was has happened before this book and I know what will happen later as far as Alex's personal life and Milo's career. This book brings it together. This book contains the events that change their lives that Kellerman refers to later on. That and John Rubinstein (the best narrator ever!) does such a good job. The book not only is in Alex's first person narration, but flashes back to Milo. Milo is in third person, and Rubinstein reads the narration with a hint Milo without being Milo.

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  • Posted June 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good, not great

    I enjoyed reading The Murder Book. The best part of the novel was the start where the murder case is described in past tense. It was interesting learning more about Milo. The end of the book where all the loose threads come together was good although maybe a little too pat, but it still didn't mar the enjoyment of the reading. Buy the book second hand as it is not a keeper for your permanent library. Read it once; it doesn't merit a reread years from now.

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  • Posted July 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Couldn't Put This One Down..

    This is the first book I ever read from this author and it definately won't be the last. I wasn't sure if a 'detective' storyline would be a good read but turns out this book was a hard one to put down. I was happy that the author went directly to the receiving of the 'murder book' by the main character and THEN gave the backgrund of how the actual events led up to the contents of the murder book. The development of the plot line was very focused and this kept the reader intrigued. This book was well worth the read and I hope his other books are just as good. The ending to this book was a real surprise and the action was great. Loved it!! I thought the 'love interest' part of the book between the main character and his girlfriend should have been resolved more definately one way or the other, though. It felt lile a loose end (and after all we had gone thru with them!!).

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    Excellent read.

    Excellent read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2003

    Kellerman not as his best

    I am an avid reader and have read all of Mr. Kellermans works. In this particuar edition of his Delaware saga he spent extensive periods mulling over best friend Milo's past. This seemed a far to huge focus of the book. It was a bit tiresome at times but it did pick up near the end. Not his worst, but not his best.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    Nothing worth mentioning!

    Now that summer is here I like to buy audio books to listen to as I lay in the sun. I was expecting so much more from this book. It was mentioned as a book bought by many other people who had read some of the really great books I had listened to before so I figured it must be really be good. My mistake. It was okay but the mention of so many different characters made it hard to keep track of who was who. I was expecting much better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2003

    Decent Book; Nothing to Scream About

    I thought this book was okay. It was a bit of a snore for the first 150 pages or so, but after that it was hard to put down. I enjoyed it, and it gave me something interesting to look at when taking a break from my hectic life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2003

    it was okay

    I got the book, becuause I like murder mysteries. Author could have done a little better. I'm usually done in 1-2 days (i'm still reading this one & will put it down to read my prey novel. I will probably never pick it up again)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2003

    Murder Books murders its readers

    There's no mystery in The Murder Book, just characterization and in-depth analysis of society and its acceptance to homosexuals, the mentally challenged, and drug dealers. I live in that world- I don't want to read about it. The book as a whole was not satisfying. The entire time I was expecting a twist so spectacular that it would put everything in full view, allowing me to read it again to pick out clues. The twist is there, but not one I had hoped for. While I admit that certain parts intrigued me, the overall pacing of this book was slow and meddled too much in the past. Johnathan Kellerman is a good writer, but this book didn't mesh with me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    J. Kellerman Scores Again

    I really wish I could give this four and a half stars; it is as well-written as all of Mr. Kellerman's books, just not quite worth the full five stars! It's missing some of the unexpected flashes of humor I have come to expect from Alex Delaware, but I did enjoy the occasional switches to the third person which focus on his friend Milo's life. The story is absorbing and moves right along, though the details of the crime's solution are a little convoluted. As with most of the Alex Delaware series, the motives for the crime and its coverup involve at least four of the seven deadly sins - which always make for good reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2002


    When you see a new book out by Kellerman, you expect a good read. Not so in this case. Alex and Robin arefacing a separation while she is ontour with a concert group. Hisfeelings of insecurity disrupt the thread of the story while he keeps waiting for her to call him or hisfailure to catch up with her. Dropher and move on! He receives a book of unsolved murders over 20 years oldwith the emphasis on the last case worked by Sturgis and Schwinn before the partners were split by the forced retirement of Schwinn and transfer of Sturgis to a different district. The case faded into the unsolved files because no one pursued it. It was just a young girl brutally murdered and discarded near an exressway ramp. Now it stares Milo in the face but why was the book sent to Alex instead of Milo? and who sent it? Schwinn would have had to steal some of thepictures from the police files butwhy? Alex and Milo start out together and separately to solve the mysteries. Back to a high school group of boys called The Kings Men which consisted of rich boys dedicated to sex and drugs.That tied into some of the rich nasties of thepresent day. Meetings with men whohad 100 percent recall of events 20years ago leads to the guilty at a snail's pace over 400 pages long. Ho-hum! You could pick your way thru the agonizing, long, dry, sometimes unrelated details or convince yourself that Kellerman would never foist this drivel on his fans and keep ploding along looking for the action sprinkled here and there. At its best it's not good enough....come on, Kellerman, give us a reallygood read for our money to make upfor this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2002

    A very Naughties Los Angeles tale

    A quiet, introspective book, very much in the style of earlier Alex Delaware books. It really captures a picture of Naughties Los Angeles. There are background details here that really localise it in time and space. So much so that if this book is read 50 years hence, editorial footnotes might be useful. For example, there is a slumlord who is ordered by a judge to live in one of his decrepit flats. Based on an actual case in the 90s. Then there is the city councillor who was caught with narcotics. Again inspired by a recent incident. Plus the LAPD Chief, who is a strict disciplinarian who rose from the ranks. Based on the previous actual Chief, who was replaced in 2002. There are novels which deliberately do not say which year they are in. Typically, these are contemporary novels, and the authors do not want the books to soon appear dated. Think of the original James Bond novels, for example. The most you can say is that they are set in some decade. Well, based on the clues above, this novel can be pinpointed quite accurately. The LAPD Chief in question held that position from 1997 to 2002. So the upper bound is 2002. The lower bound is greater than 1997. Why? Well, cellphones are casually used and pervasive. Likewise, the hero often uses search engines to look for people, and expects to find positive results. 1997 was a little too early for this. Probably 2000 and later. In fact, think of this as the answer to a English assignment question, circa 2050. "WHEN was this novel?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2002

    Starts Out Great, but.......

    The idea of the "Murder Book" that Alex receives in the mail is original, intriguing and had me staying up late the first night, but at some point the story line began to bog down in too much detail about inconsequential things, too many characters to keep track of, and other too muches! Once again Alex and Robin are having serious relationship problems and a thread of this runs throughout the book taking away from the whole story rather than adding to it. Kellerman gets into Milos life in lots more depth than ever before and I found this interesting. About half of the book was great but I found myself just plowing through the rest of the read and hoping it would get better again. It seemed to me like there was so much meaningless detail and yet other important happenings weren't well explained. I read all John Kellerman's new books, but sorry to say this didn't seem to me like one of his best efforts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2002

    A Real Page Turner

    My fingers were glued to the pages of this book. I really loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2002

    Great 'til the end!

    "The Murder Book" kept me up nights reading, a real page turner! Until the last few chapters this was, hands down, Kellerman's best effort. What happened? The end is so improbable, so incomplete, so unrealistic, I found myself actually angry with disappointment. I won't give away the ending and it is still worth the read but I'll wonder if he ran out of time or lost interest. So many crimes and no one in Ojai noticed??? Too bad Dr. Kellerman, it "coulda been a contender".

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    powerful police procedural

    Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware is stunned to receive the binder containing grisly police photographs of crime scenes with an outside logo, "THE MURDER BOOK". He shows his ¿gift¿ to his friend, long term police veteran Detective Milo Sturgis, who is equally shocked by the book, but one particular picture haunts him. The book includes the picture of one of his first cases, the mutilated body of Hollywood High student Janie Ingalls, killed two decades ago. Milo remembers that as a rookie he was teamed with veteran Pierce Schwinn, but as they began to put the case together, they were removed. Milo believs his first detective partner sent the book in order to tease the duo into investigating the cold case. Milo and Alex follow a trail that takes back to high society, a place where Schwinn reached twenty years ago before they were yanked off the investigation, but the trail remains frozen though the duo methodically progress one slow clue at a time. THE MURDER BOOK is a powerful police procedural that is the best Delaware tale in several years. The story line absorbs the audience with the systematic scrutiny of the evidence one ugly step at a time. The support cast is abundant and overwhelming at times, but the lead sleuthing couple keeps things in perspective and provides the bonus of seeing Milo as a tyro. Jonathan Kellerman, who has a mantelpiece filled with deserving awards, may have his SHAMUS this time. Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2010

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