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The blazingly original novel from the most exciting new voice in crime fiction today-a brilliantly crafted modern noir filled with secrets, heartbreak, and mordant humor.

Gloria Mendez is single and thirty-six, and secretly and somewhat hopelessly in love with her oblivious boss. He is both single and solitary, and far too old for her, but she has worked for him, side by side, for ten oddly companionable years. But when he disappears on his annual trip to Mexico -- the one ...

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The blazingly original novel from the most exciting new voice in crime fiction today-a brilliantly crafted modern noir filled with secrets, heartbreak, and mordant humor.

Gloria Mendez is single and thirty-six, and secretly and somewhat hopelessly in love with her oblivious boss. He is both single and solitary, and far too old for her, but she has worked for him, side by side, for ten oddly companionable years. But when he disappears on his annual trip to Mexico -- the one aspect of his life to which she's never been privy -- Gloria's sudden and impulsive search for him reveals the wreckage of a hidden past. Carl Perreira was not who Gloria thought he was -- nor was he anything she could have imagined.

As Gloria travels this twisted road into Carl's backstory, she realizes she might not have known him at all. Her investigation discloses as much about her own life as it does about her mysterious boss -- and leaves her fighting for her life. Sunstroke is everything a thriller should be: circuitous, thought provoking, and brimming with edge-of-the-seat suspense -- and the start of a brilliant career.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
… Kellerman uses a seductive style - a kind of magic realism that suits the miragelike landscape - to ensnare us in his characters' lives and make us feel, like Gloria, that we're trapped in a hypnotic dream.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Kellerman is the son of well-known novelists Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, and if his debut is any indication, talent breeds true. Gloria Mendez-a 36-year-old secretary at a Los Angeles novelty item import business-is in love with her boss, Carl Perreira, though he has never reciprocated her romantic interest. Carl has gone on his annual vacation, and after leaving a garbled phone message on Gloria's answering machine, he disappears into Mexico's backcountry. Facing apathy from the police in Mexico and the U.S.-even after Carl is reported dead in a fiery car crash-Gloria heads south to retrieve his body. She soon finds herself enmeshed in a dangerous adventure hinging on the mystery of Carl's death (if he is indeed really dead), his real identity and the truthfulness of the young man who introduces himself as Carlos Perreira, Carl's son abandoned many years earlier. Gloria is dogged, resourceful and intelligent, but despite some sex and gunplay late in the game, the adventure is a bit too cool and cerebral to be a thriller and too literary to be a genre mystery. Many readers will enjoy the intrepid Gloria and her puzzle, but most will hope for a little more heat from this promising writer's next outing. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
Impressive debut catapulting playwright-turned-novelist Kellerman into the first ranks of mystery/suspense writers. The dialogue crackles, and the plot briskly and plausibly moves ahead. Places, characters and emotions are superbly evoked. The theme of this tale is an ancient one: We think we know someone well, but it turns out we don't at all. (5 Jun 2006)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
An early morning earthquake in Los Angeles is ordinary enough, but after the trembling stops, 36-year-old Gloria Mendez finds her life anything but on steady ground. After heading into work to assess the damage, she discovers a garbled, frantic message from her boss, Carl Perreira. Gloria has worked for Carl for ten years-and has loved him for just as long. But now, on Carl's annual vacation to Mexico, the one part of his life the two didn't share, he has disappeared into the back country. Carl's strange message consumes Gloria; answers are hard and dangerous to find, and as soon as Gloria starts digging into Carl's past, she realizes how little she truly knows him. The plot moves along quickly enough, and Gloria is a strong, intense character. Although some of the dialog seems artificial and forced, it fits in with the overall mood and atmosphere that debut novelist Kellerman (son of authors Faye and Jonathan Kellerman) is trying to create. Sunstroke will certainly find readers, but Kellerman's family might help matters somewhat. Recommended for most public libraries.-Andrea Y. Griffith, Loma Linda Univ. Libs., CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the son of the bestsellers Kellerman (Faye and Jonathan), a superb debut thriller about love, lust, vengeance, murder and a good girl coping. Okay, so Gloria Mendez at 36 is past her first girlhood. But good she is. Probably too good for her own good, as is evident from her behavior when her boss, Carl Perreira, owner-operator of Caperco Mask and Novelty, Inc., suddenly goes missing. The world isn't full of people, for instance, who would unhesitatingly get into a car and drive the ten hours from L.A. to Aguas Vivas, Mexico, out of a sense of obligation, out of the conviction that good girls bear witness. But bear witness to what? Excellent question, and not one to which Gloria can give a conventional answer. Still, "Take care of things while I'm gone," Carl's note had said, and, Gloria being Gloria, she sets about trying to do exactly that. In Aguas Vivas, however, a sun-blasted town that time forgot, she runs into obstacles. She knows that something bad has happened to Carl there. How bad? And where is he? How many unsuspected identities does he have, this man with whom she's worked side by side for a decade? And, gulp, is he still alive? Questions and more questions, all unsettling, as is the motley array that turns out to be her only source for answers. There's the gravestone cutter competing for market share with his dead half brother, the drunken Mexican cop intent on dragging her into his bed, a seven-year-old who computes like Einstein and the gorgeous hunk claiming to be Carl's long-lost son, who dazzles her, rattles her and scares the very daylights out of her. Funny, exciting and stylishly written-a delicious tour de force not to be missed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780515142235
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 800,873
  • Product dimensions: 4.26 (w) x 6.71 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Jesse Kellerman

Jesse Kellerman is the author of Potboiler, The Executor, The Genius, Trouble, Sunstroke. and with Jonathan Kellerman, The Golem of Hollywood. His books and plays have won several awards and an Edgar Award nomination. He lives in California.

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Read an Excerpt


Take care of things when I'm gone.

The earthquake began at three twenty-four A.M. and ended seventy-three seconds later. By four in the morning, Gloria Mendez had determined that her apartment had suffered no serious casualties.

There wasn't much to damage. In this she differed from many of her single friends, who had, without warning, begun accruing evidence of their solitude: framed photos of Mickey Mouse-eared nieces and nephews; a few too many leather miniskirts; mementos from three different ski trips with two different men. Siamese cats named The Fonz, or Jon Bon Jovi, or after imaginary daughters. Alexis. Samantha. Claire. Items you could accumulate safely, content in the knowledge that there wasn't some crazed toddler out to scratch them, shatter them, choke on them, soak them in regurgitated formula and half-digested carrots.

By contrast, Gloria's apartment looked empty. She didn't even have a mirror in her bedroom. To check her reflection, she had to go into the bathroom, stretching over the counter if she wanted to see how her Levi's fit.

She never bothered, because they always fit fine.

Spartan didn't quite describe the place. She preferred to think of it as untethered. By not weighing herself down with sentimentality, she was free to make changes to her life; free to accommodate another person, or two, or three. She believed that life forked for unwed women over thirty-five; you could either be hopeful or resigned. Resigned was halfway to dead, though, so Gloria chose to be hopeful.

Besides, these days women were having kids later than ever. Barb Oberle's cousin had had twins at forty-six. It was like something out of the Old Testament.

Untethered, buoyed by possibility. When Gloria gathered with friends for coffee, she sometimes imagined herself as lighter than those around her, hovering an inch or two above the crowd.

Owning almost nothing carried the added benefit of making it easier to keep the place clean; she liked things complete, tucked in.

About the walls, Barb Oberle said For crissake, put something up. It looks like a Kubrick film in here.

Barb had a better sense of humor than the others. It probably had something to do with the fact that she was married, but Gloria was unsure which was cause and which was effect.

The rattle of an aftershock sent Gloria scurrying to the doorway. She waited for it to pass, then went on surveying her kitchen. For once she felt thankful for the poor quality of her cabinetry. The door that stuck saved all her glassware from a lemming-like fate. She swept up a vase and sponged the viscera of high-diving jars. Beneath the sink, bleach had spilled; in cleaning it, she took care to keep it away from the Windex. Mixing the two created poisonous fumes, and if she was going to die this morning, she at least wanted to straighten up first.

The radio was calling it a humdinger. CalTech hadn't released the verdict, but "armchair seismologists" (whatever that meant) had pegged its Richter in the high sixes. Expect closure of roads and government offices. Expect power outages. Expect disruptions in cable service, phone service, Internet connections. Cell service providers are having trouble due to damage to transponders; be patient, keep trying, and maybe the grid will unclog. Do not leave your house-except if there's a gas leak. In that case, don't stay inside your house. County law stipulates that all buildings five years or younger must have an automatic gas shutoff valve; if you don't know the age of your home, it's recommended that you check. Just in case, use flashlights, not candles. Be aware that aftershocks can be as deadly or worse than the original quake, given the weakened state of-

She switched it off.

She tried to call around to see if people were okay, but the landline was out. Contrary to the radio's bleak assertions, however, her cellphone was working; Reggie had left a voicemail. He wanted to make sure she was all right. He was busy, he said, and he'd try her later in the day, when he could afford a minute to talk.

She tried him back: all circuits were busy.

Going back to bed was out of the question. Once woken, she couldn't convince her body that it had been given a second chance. She was about to run a bath when Carl's note popped into her head.

Take care of things when I'm gone.

The figurines.

She had a banana, put on some clothes, and set out for the office.

--from Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman, Copyright © 2006 by Jesse Kellerman, published by G. P. Putnam & Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Superb debut

    Those expecting a facsimile of his parents' work--or those who only like novels full of guns and corpses--may be disappointed, as this is not so much a thriller as a character study. Readers with a bit more imagination and flexibility, however, will be rewarded for their efforts. Gloria is credible and sympathetic, and her journey is fascinating. A fine debut that bodes well for the future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    delightful character driven who-done-it

    Thirty-six years old Los Angeles secretary Gloria Mendez has been in love with her boss, novelty import business mogul, Carl Perreira, for years though she accepts it is unrequited so she hides her deep regard from him as he has not shown any sexual interest in her. Carl goes on vacation in Mexico. Following a relatively minor earthquake, Gloria listens to a strange jumbled message that Carl left on her answering machine. She tries to follow-up as Carl apparently has disappeared somewhere in Mexico's backcountry. Gloria tries LAPD, who dispatch her to the Tijuana cops, but neither departments show the slightest interest in the case. --- Not soon afterward, Gloria learns that Carl allegedly died in a car crash inferno. Devastated by her loss, Gloria travels to Mexico to bring Carl¿s remains home for burial. However, even that simple kind gesture proves difficult and dangerous starting with when she meets a young man claiming to be Carlos Perreira, son of her Carl and others who assume she is either a partner or lover with insider information on the activities of a man she thought she knew. --- Gloria is the center of this fine cerebral mystery in which much of the action is inferred until near the end. Though not a particularly courageous individual, the heroine shows her mettle when she tries to do what she believes is the right thing for Carl and subsequently begins an amateurish sleuthing into what happened to him and why. Proving DNA matters, Jesse Kellerman debuts with a delightful character driven who-done-it. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2012

    This was a decent read. Gloria is not the same irritating, sass

    This was a decent read. Gloria is not the same irritating, sassy, don't-need-no-man single woman that is often found in other "thrillers" (and by the way, I am a woman, using my husband's account). Her quest to find out the truth behind her boss's disappearance was interesting enough, even if it wasn't necessarily exciting.

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  • Posted November 18, 2009

    Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman

    An excellent book! What a book to be the first book by this author. It is hard to believe that someone so young wrote this book. Beautiful prose.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2007

    What a groaner!

    I looked everywhere online to find a reading group guide or a link to the author. With the author located, I sent an email request for a short reading guide. His response was pretty lame ... he created a reading guide for his second book but not this one and why don't I come up with some questions or ideas after I read the book!!! Frankly, this was not the response I expected and it made reading the book for group discussion even more difficult. The story line rambles and runs amok all through the 367 pages. It was such a relief to finally get to the end!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2006


    I listened to the book on CD and found it extremely dull and boring. The long winded character and scene descriptions put to me sleep several times. I began to wonder what the point was and who the author was writing for. Was he writing for a college class or readers for their enjoyment? In the end, I never finished the book on CD and regret I selected the book for library patrons to read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    It runs in the family. Jesse Kellerman, son of popular suspense novelists Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, has written an absorbing nail-biter to rival any other in this crowded literary field. Mom and dad must be justifiably proud of their Harvard grad who has already penned a number of award-winning plays and been given the Princess Grace Award for the country's most promising young playwright. Now, he shows he also has the mystery writer chops with 'Sunstroke,' impeccably plotted with enough turns and twists to keep listeners riveted. Speaking of listeners, the narration by stage and screen actress Annie Henk aptly captures the protagonists determination and then desperation as she uncovers secrets she never wanted to know. Thirty something Gloria Mendez plays by the rules. She has worked for Carl Perriera, owner of Caperco Mask and Novelty, Inc., for ten years, enjoying almost every minute because she's in love with him. It's a love that is unrequited, as far as she knows. As her friend Barb points out, she takes care of Carl too much and has done so for too long. That ends shortly. When Carl goes out of town and leaves a note reading, 'Take care of things while I'm gone,' she does just that. But only for so long because she receives word that Carl has been killed in a car accident. She feels there's nothing left for her to do but collect his body and see to proper arrangements. Guileless Gloria drives for over ten hours to a tiny Mexican border town, Aguas Vivas. She doesn't find a great deal of sympathy there but rather roadblocks thrown in her way. It seems that Carl wasn't the quiet, hardworking fellow she had believed him to be. She's convinced that something awful happened to Carl in this forlorn little place, but what? And, is one man really who he claims to be - Carl's son? 'Sunstroke' is an auspicious debut from a writer of unquestionable talent. Plus, it's superbly read. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2006

    lots of potential

    This author has plenty of potential - I liked his style and I thought the story line was unique. But the ending fell flat for me. Give him a chance though, I'm guessing we'll see great things from him soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2006

    Terrible waste of time.

    This writer fell very far the family talent tree. His prose is over blown and the characters are flat. The story is silly and uninteresting.

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