The Web (Alex Delaware Series #10)

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Overview

Three months in paradise, all expenses paid. It's an invitation Alex Delaware can't refuse. Dr. Woodrow Wilson Moreland, a revered scientist and philanthropist on the tiny Pacific island of Aruk, has invited Alex to his home to help him organize his papers for publication - a light workload leaving Alex plenty of time to enjoy a romantic interlude with Robin Castagna. Quickly, however, secretive houseguests, frightening nocturnal visitors, and the elusive Dr. Moreland himself dim the pleasures of deep blue water ...
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Overview

Three months in paradise, all expenses paid. It's an invitation Alex Delaware can't refuse. Dr. Woodrow Wilson Moreland, a revered scientist and philanthropist on the tiny Pacific island of Aruk, has invited Alex to his home to help him organize his papers for publication - a light workload leaving Alex plenty of time to enjoy a romantic interlude with Robin Castagna. Quickly, however, secretive houseguests, frightening nocturnal visitors, and the elusive Dr. Moreland himself dim the pleasures of deep blue water and white sand. The cases Moreland chooses to share - a patient driven to madness by a cruel, unspeakable act; a man who succumbed forty years ago to radiation poisoning after a nuclear blast; a young woman, brutally murdered, whose mutilated body was found on the beach just six months before - seem unconnected. And yet Alex can't help wondering what the good doctor is trying to tell him... and what Moreland's real reason for inviting him to Aruk is.

Child psychologist Alex Delaware receives a revered scientist's invitation to spend three all-expenses-paid months in the South Pacific. All he has to do is help Dr. Moreland organize some papers, and the rest of the time is his to enjoy. But secretive houseguests, frightening nocturnal visitors, and the elusive doctor himself soom make it clear that Moreland's real purpose in inviting Alex is hidden under layers of deception.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sleuthing psychologist Alex Delaware discovers that a respected scientist's offer of an expense-paid vacation is too good to be true. Kellerman's latest thriller spent 11 weeks on PW's bestseller list. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Psychologist Alex Delaware, last seen in Bad Love (Audio Reviews, LJ 5/1/94), is invited by the famous but eccentric scientist William Moreland to organize years of medical paperwork in preparation for publication. When Delaware arrives at Moreland's estate on the tropical island of Aruk, there are immediate signs that all is not right. Unusual house guests, Moreland's dark and dangerous insectarium, and a particularly gruesome murder add to Delaware's unease. When another local is murdered, Delaware finds himself unwittingly thrust into a psychological and political maze that culminates in a discovery far beyond his wildest fears. Kellerman's ability to weave an intriguing story with tantalizing hints of horror and breathtaking suspense makes this an unforgettable tale that will be popular with the author's fans as well as general fiction listeners. Reader John Rubenstein's mastery of a variety of character voices, coupled with occasional ominous background music, makes this an entertaining program.-Susan McCaffrey, Legg Middle Sch. Lib., Coldwater, Mich.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553572278
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/1996
  • Series: Alex Delaware Series , #10
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 4.17 (w) x 6.89 (h) x 1.26 (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 more than thirty bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, the novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored the bestsellers Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. He is the author of numerous essays, short stories, scientific articles, two children’s books, and three volumes of psychology, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children, as well as the lavishly illustrated With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live in California, New Mexico, and New York. Their four children include the novelists Jesse Kellerman and Aliza Kellerman.

Biography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good To Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read an Excerpt

He led us past the first two rows and stopped at the third. "Some sort of classification system would have been clever, but I know where everyone is and I'm the one who feeds them."

Turning left, he stopped at a dark tank. Inside was a floor of mulch and leaves, above it a tangle of bare branches. Nothing else that I could see.

He pulled something out of his pocket and held it between his fingers. A pellet, not unlike Spike's kibble.

The wire lid was clamped; he loosened it and pushed, exposing a comer. Inserting two fingers, he dangled the pellet.

At first, nothing happened. Then, quicker than I believed possible, the mulch heaved, as if in the grip of a tiny earthquake, and something shot up.

A second later, the food was gone.

Robin pressed herself against me.

Moreland hadn't moved. Whatever had taken the pellet had disappeared.

"Australian garden wolf," said Moreland, securing the top. "Cousin of your Italian friend. Like tarantula, they burrow and wait."

"Looks as if you know what it likes," said Robin. I heard the difference in her voice, but a stranger might not have.

"What she likes—this one's quite the lady—is animal protein. Preferably in liquid form. Spiders always liquefy their food. I combine insects, worms, mice, whatever, and create a broth that I freeze and defrost. This is the same stuff, compressed and freeze-dried. I did it to see if they'd adapt to solids. Luckily, many of them did."

He smiled. "Strange avocation for a vegetarian, right? But what's the choice? She's my responsibility....Come with me, perhaps we can bring back some memories."

He openedanother aquarium at the end of the row, but this time he shoved his arm in, drew out something, and placed it on his forearm. One of the vertical bulbs was close enough to highlight its forrn on his pale flesh. A spider, dark, hairy, just over an inch long. It crawled slowly up toward his shoulder.

"Is that what your mother found, dear?"

Robin licked her lips. "Yes."

"Her name is Gina." To the spider, now at his collar: "Good evening, senora." Then to Robin: "Would you like to hold her, dear?"

"I guess."

"A new friend, Gina." As if understanding, the spider stopped. Moreland lifted it tenderly and placed it in Robin's palm.

It didn't budge, then it lifted its head and seemed to study her. Its mouth moved, an eerie lipsynch.

"You're cute, Gina."

"We can send one just like her to your mother," I said. "For old time's sake."

She laughed and the spider stopped again. Then, moving with mechanical precision, it walked to the edge of her palm- and peered over the edge.

"Nothing down there but floor," said Robin. "Guess you'd like to go back to Daddy."

Moreland removed it, stroked its belly, placed it back in its home, walked on.

Pulling out his doctors' penlight, he pointed out specimens, illuminated details.

Colorless spiders the size of ants. Spiders that looked like ants. A delicate green thing with translucent, lime-colored legs. A sticklike Australian hygropoda. ("Marvel of energy conservation. The slender build prevents it from overheating.") A huge-fanged arachnid whose brick-red carapace and lemon-yellow abdomen were so vivid they resembled costume jewelry. A Bomean jumper whose big black eyes and hairy face gave it the look of a wise old man.

"Look at this," he said. "I'm sure you've never seen a web like this."

Pointing to a zigzag construction, like crimped paper.

"Argiope, an orb spinner. Custom-tailored to attract the bee it loves to eat. That central 'X' reflects ultraviolet light in a manner that brings the bees to it. All webs are highly specific, with incredible tensile strength. Many use several types of silk; many are pigmented with an eye toward particular prey. Most are modified daily to adapt to varying circumstances. Some are used as mating beds. All in all, a beautiful deceit."

His hands flew and his head bobbed. With each sentence, he grew more animated. I knew I was anthropomorphizing, but the creatures seemed excited, too. Moving more, emerging from the shadows to show themselves, wiggling and . . . waving?

Not the panic I'd heard before. Smooth, almost leisurely motions. A dance of mutual interest?

". . . why I concentrate on predators," Moreland was saying. "Why I'm so concerned with keeping them fit and well fed."

A brilliant pink, crablike thing rested atop his bony hand. "Of course, natural predation is nothing new. Back in nineteen twenty-five, levuana moths threatened the entire coconut crop on Fiji. Tachinid parasites were brought in and they did the job beautifully. The following year, a particularly voracious destructor scale was done in by the coccinellid beetle. And I'm sure you know gardeners have used ladybugs on aphids for years. I breed them to protect my citrus trees, as a matter of fact." He pointed to an aquarium that seemed to be red carpeted. A finger against the glass made the carpet move. Thousands of miniature Volkswagens, a ladybug traffic jam. "So simple, so practical. But the key is keeping them nutritionally robust."

We moved further up the row and he stopped and breathed deeply. "If it weren't for public prejudice, this beauty and her compatriots could be trained to clear homes of rats."

Shining the penlight into a dark tank, he revealed something half covered by leaves.

It crawled out slowly and my stomach lurched.

Three inches wide and more than twice that length, legs as thick as pencils, hairs as coarse as boar bristle. It remained inert as the light washed over it. Then it opened its mouth wide—yawning?—and stroked the orifice with clawlike pincers.

As Moreland undid the mesh I found myself stepping back. In went his hand; another pellet dangled.

Unlike the Australian wolf, this one took the food lazily, almost coyly.

"This is Emma and she's spoiled." One of the spider's legs nudged his finger, rubbing it. "This is the tarantula of B-movies, but she's really a Grammostola, from the Amazon. In her natural habitat, she eats small birds, lizards, mice, even venomous snakes, which she immobilizes, then crushes. Can you see the advantages for pest control?"

"Why not use her own venom?" I said.

"Most spider venom can't do harm except to very small prey. You can be sure spoiled Madame Emma wouldn't have the patience to wait for the toxin to take effect. But despite her apparent indolence, she's quite an impatient lady when she gets hungry. All wolves are; they got their name because they chase their prey down. I must confess they're my favorite. So bright. They quickly recognize individuals. And they respond to kindness. All tarantulae do. That's why your little Lycosa made such a good pet, Robin."

Robin's eyes remained on the monster.

Moreland said, "She likes you."

"I sure hope so."

"Oh yes, she definitely does. When she doesn't care for someone, she turns her head away—quite the debutante. Not that I bring people in here very often. The residents need their peace."

He petted the huge spider, removed his hand, and covered the aquarium. "Insects and arachnids are magnificent, structurally and functionally. I'm sure you've heard all the cliches about how they're competing with us, will eventually drive us to extinction. Nonsense. Some species become quite successful but many others hover on the brink of dying out, and many are fragile and do not survive. For years entomologists have been trying to figure out what leads to success. The popular academic model is Monomorium pharaonis—the common ant. Many tenures have been granted on studies of what makes Monomorium tick. The conventional wisdom is that there are three important criteria: resistance to dehydration, cooperative colonies with multiple fertile queens, and the ability to relocate the colony quickly and efficiently. But there are insects with those exact traits who fail and others, like the carpenter ant, who've done quite well despite having none of them."

He shrugged.

"A puzzle. Another component of their appeal."

He resumed the tour, pointing out waIking stick bugs, mantises with serrated jaws, giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches topped with chitinous armor, dung beetles rolling their fetid treasures like giant medicine balls, stout, black carrion beetles, whose special love is dead flesh ("Imagine what they could do to solve the landfill problems you've got over on the mainland"). Tank after tank of crawling, climbing, darting, crackling, slithering things.

"I stay away from butterflies and moths. Too short-lived and they need flying room to be truly happy. All my guests adapt well to close quarters and many of them achieve amazing longevity—my Lycosa's ten years old, and some spiders live double or triple that amount....Am I boring you?"

"No," said Robin. Her eyes were wide and it didn't seem like fear. "They're all impressive, but Emma...the size."

"Yes...actually—here, let me show you."

He walked quickly to a tank in the last row. Much larger than the others, at least twenty gallons. Inside, several rocks formed a cave that shadowed a wood-chip floor.

"My brontosaurus," he said. "His ancestors probably did coexist with the dinosaurs."

Pointing to what seemed to be an extension of the rock.

I stayed back, looking, steeling myself for another heartstopping movement.

Nothing.

Then it was there. Without moving. Taking shape before my eyes:

What I'd thought to be rock was organic. Extending out of the cave.

Flat bodied, segmented. Like a braided brown leather whip.

Seven, eight inches long.

Legs on each segment.

Antennae as thick as cello strings.

Twitching antennae.

I moved further back, waiting for Moreland to play the pellet game.

He put his face up against the glass.

More slithered out of the cave.

At least a foot long. Spikes at the tail end quivered.

Moreland tapped the glass, and several pairs of the creature's front feet pawed the air.

A lunging motion, a sound like snapping fingers.

"What...is it?" said Robin.

"The giant centipede of East Asia. This one stowed away on one of the supply boats last year—Brady's as a matter of fact. I obtain a lot of my specimerls that way."

I thought of our ride on The Madeleine. Sleeping below deck, wearing only bathing trunks.

"He's significantly more venomous than most spiders," he said. "And I haven't named him yet. Haven't quite trained him to love me."

"How venomous is significant?" I said.

"There's only one recorded fatality. A seven-year-old boy in the Philippines, probably an anaphylactic reaction. The most common problem is secondary infection, gangrene. Limb loss can occur."

"Have you ever been bitten?" I asked.

"Often." He smiled. "But only by human children who didn't wish to be vaccinated."

"Very impressive," I said, hoping we were through. But another pellet was between Moreland's fingers, and before I knew it another corner of mesh had been drawn back.

No dangling this time. He dropped the food into the centipede's cage.

The animal ignored it.

Moreland said, "Have it your way," and refastened the top.

He headed up the central aisle and we were right behind him.

"That's it. I hope I haven't repulsed you."

"So your nutritional research is about them," I said.

"Primarily. They have much to teach us. I also study web patterns, various other things."

A beautiful deceit.

"Fascinating," said Robin.

I stared at her. She smiled from the corner of her mouth. Her hand had warmed. Her fingers began tickling my palm then dropped. Crawling down my inner wrist.

I tried to pull away but she held me fast. Full smile.

"I'm glad you feel that way, dear," said Moreland. "Some people are repelled. No telling."


Later, in our suite, I tried to extract revenge by coming up behind her as she removed her makeup and lightly scratching her neck.

She squealed and shot to her feet, grabbing for me, and we ended up on the floor.

I got on top and tickled her some more. "Fascinating? All of a sudden I'm living with Spiderwoman? Shall we begin a new hobby when we get back?"

She laughed. "First thing, learn the recipe for those pellets....Actually, it was fascinating, Alex. Though now that I'm out of there, it's starting to feel creepy again."

"The size of some of them," I said. "Some vacation."

"It wasn't a typical evening, that's for sure."

"What do you think of our host?"

"Mucho eccentric. But kind. Sweet."

"Very. Dear."

"I don't mind that from him. He's from another generation. And despite his age, still passionate. I like passion in a man."

She freed an arm and ran it up mine. "Coochie-coo!"

I pinioned her. "Ah, my little Lycosa, I am passionate, too!"

She reached around. "So it seems."

I bared my teeth. "Hold me and crush me, Arachnodella—liquefy me."

"You scoff," she said, "but just think what I could do with six more hands."


From the Audio Cassette edition.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 27 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2003

    Web (Alex Delaware Series #10)

    Very un-interesting. Not the typical Alex Deleware story. I struggled to get through it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2014

    Struggle to finish

    I agree with other reviews that this is not as good as his other books. I did finish the book but only because I always think books will get better. I didn't think this one did.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2012

    Boring

    I have read quite a few alex deleware books this one was very boring to me.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    great book from a great series

    this is a great book, as are all of the books in this series. i highly recommend any of them!

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    Critique

    I enjoy all of Jonathon Kellerman's books.
    MJM

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    Web (Alex Delaware Series #10)

    I've read all of the Alex Delaware series books and this was the worst! I'd not recommend it to anyone!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2001

    Dont bother.

    I pushed my way through and still didn't make it to the end. Exhausting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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