Billy Straight

Billy Straight

by Jonathan Kellerman

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A resourceful runaway alone in the wilds of Los Angeles, twelve-year-old Billy Straight suddenly witnesses a brutal stabbing in Griffith Park. Fleeing into the night, Billy cannot shake the horrific memory of the savage violence, nor the pursuit of a cold-blooded killer. For wherever Billy turns—from Hollywood Boulevard to the boardwalks of Venice—he is haunted by the chuck, chuck sound of a knife sinking into flesh.
“Taut, compelling . . . Everything a thriller ought to be. The writing is excellent. The plotting is superior. The characters ring true.”—USA Today
As LAPD homicide detective Petra Connor desperately searches for the murderer, as the media swarms mercilessly around the story, the vicious madman stalks closer to his prey. Only Petra can save Billy. But it will take all her cunning to uncover a child lost in a fierce urban labyrinth—where a killer seems right at home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345540133
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2013
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 348,946
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than three dozen bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. With his son, bestselling novelist Jesse Kellerman, he co-authored the first book of a new series, The Golem of Hollywood. He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and 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 and New Mexico.


Beverly Hills, California

Date of Birth:

August 9, 1949

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974

Read an Excerpt

In the park you see things.
But not what I saw tonight.
God, God . . .
I wanted to be dreaming but I was awake, smelling chili meat and onions and the pine trees.

First, the car drove up to the edge of the parking lot. They got out and talked and he grabbed her, like in a hug. I thought maybe they were going to kiss and I'd watch that.
Then all of a sudden, she made a weird sound—surprised, squeaky, like a cat or dog that gets stepped on.

He let go of her and she fell. Then he bent down next to her and his arm started moving up and down really fast. I thought he was punching her, and that was bad enough, and I kept thinking should I do something. But then I heard another sound, fast, wet, like the butcher at Stater Brothers back in Watson chopping meat—chuck chuck chuck.

He kept doing it, moving his arm up and down.
I wasn't breathing. My heart was on fire. My legs were cold. Then they turned hot-wet.
Pissing my pants like a stupid baby!
The chuck chuck stopped. He stood up, big and wide, wiped his hands on his pants. Something was in his hand and he held it far from his body.
He looked all around. Then in my direction.
Could he see me, hear me—smell me?
He kept looking. I wanted to run but knew he'd hear me. But staying here could trap me—how could he see anything behind the rocks? They're like a cave with no roof, just cracks you can look through, which is the reason I picked them as one of my places.
My stomach started to churn around, and I wanted to run so badly my leg muscles were jumping under my skin.

A breeze came through the trees, blowing up pine smell and piss stink.
Would it blow against the chili-burger's wrapping paper and make noise? Would he smell me?
He looked around some more. My stomach hurt so bad.
All of a sudden he jumped ran back to the car, got in, drove away.
I didn't want to see when he passed under the lamp at the corner of the parking lot, didn't want to read the license plate.
plyr 1.

The letters burned into my mind.
Why did I look?

I'm still sitting here. My Casio says 1:12 a.m.
I need to get out of here, but what if he's just driving around and comes back—no, that would be stupid, why would he do that?
I can't stand it. She's down there, and I smell like piss and meat and onions and chili. Real dinner from the Oki-Rama on the Boulevard, that Chinese guy who never smiles or looks at your face. I paid $2.38 and now I want to throw it up.

My jeans are starting to get sticky and itchy. Going over to the public bathroom at the other end of the lot is too dangerous . . . that arm going up and down. Like he was just doing a job. He wasn't as big as Moron, but he was big enough. She trusted him, let him hug her . . . what did she do to make him so mad . . . could she still be alive?
No way. Impossible.

I listen carefully to see if she's making any sounds. Nothing but the freeway noise from across the east side of the park and traffic from the Boulevard. Not much traffic tonight. Sometimes, when the wind blows north, you hear ambulance sirens, motorcycles, car honks. The city's all around. The park looks like the country, but I know the difference.
Who is she?—forget that, I don't want to know.

What I want is to put tonight on rewind.
That squeaky sound—like he took the air right out of her. For sure she's . . . gone. But what if she isn't?
Even if she isn't, she will be soon, all that chucking. And what could I do for her, anyway? Breathe into her mouth, put my face in her blood?
What if he comes back while I'm doing it?
Would he come back? That would be stupid, but there are always surprises. She sure found that out.
I can't help her. I have to put this all out of my mind.
I'll sit here for ten more minutes—no, fifteen. Twenty. Then I'll get my Place Two stuff together and move.

Where to? Place One, up near the observatory, is too far, and so are Three and Four, even though Three would be good 'cause it has a stream for washing. That leaves Five, in the fern tangle behind the zoo, all those trees. A little closer, but still a long walk in the dark.
But it's also the hardest one to find.

Okay, I'll go to Five. Me and the animals. The way they cry and roar and smash against their cages makes it hard to sleep, but tonight I probably won't sleep anyway.
Meantime, I sit here and wait.
Our Father in heaven, how about no more surprises?
Not that praying ever got me anything, and sometimes I wonder if there's anyone up there to pray to or just stars—humongous balls of gas in an empty black universe.
Then I get worried that I'm blaspheming.
Maybe some kind of God is up there; maybe He's saved me lots of times and I'm just too dumb to know it. Or not a good enough person to appreciate Him.
Maybe God saved me tonight, putting me behind the rocks, instead of out in the open.
But if he had seen me when he drove up, he probably would've changed his mind and not done anything to her.

So did God want her to . . .
No, he just would've gone somewhere else to do it . . . whatever.
In case You saved me, thank You, God.
In case You're up there, do You have a plan for me?

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Taut, compelling . . . Everything a thriller ought to be. The writing is excellent. The plotting is superior. The characters ring true.”
—USA Today

“JONATHAN KELLERMAN HAS JUSTLY EARNED HIS REPUTATION AS A MASTER OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER. . . . The writing is vivid, the suspense sustained, and [he] has arranged one final, exquisitely surprising plot twist to confound the complacent reader.”
People (Book of the Week)

San Francisco Examiner

Los Angeles Times

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Billy Straight 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found that this book was not as gripping as Kellerman's other titles, most of his books are real page turners. The only reason I kept turning the pages in this one was because Billy Straight. I just wanted to take him home, adopt him and make sure the rest of his life was fantastic! Poor wee man. How could you not get involved? I would've liked to have known more about what happened to him - the end of the book left me hanging...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an Alex Delaware fan as much as the next person, but this is a very intriguing departure from that series. Very enjoyable!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy Straight was a very likable young boy and wish the story had more to do with him. The killer was predictable. The book was okay but took a long time to read although it wasn't boring it wasn't a page turner either. Would like to know what became of Billy Straight.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Normally, Kellerman's book's drag in the 1st few chapters, then pick up, but this book was a fast read. I could not put it down from the moment I read the first page. You really feel for the characters.
Anonymous 7 months ago
debavp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first Kellerman. I don't know why I haven't picked one up before but after seeing lots of recommendations I sought this one out. Fairly middle of the road fare, nothing earth shattering new for the genre. There were a few little plot twists that kept it interesting. Petra reminded me on occasion of a female Harry Bosch, which made me laugh a few times. Kellerman doesn't overdo introducing her so I'm interested enough to read the next one.
Bookish59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite Kellerman books. Much better than many of his others.
Darrol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On the fringes of the Alex Delaware series. Not quite enough of the title character, and too much other stuff. Too many other plot lines. I am not a fan of this particular way of approaching the perpetrator. Somewhat sappy twist at the end, but you knew something like that was coming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book & the new characters.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great. A real page turner. I read it quite a while ago, and I'm tempted to buy again. A real look into the grimey streets of LA and Hollywood and homeless street kid.This was my first Johnathon Kellerman novel and it did not dissapoint.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing thriller. Snatches you in and then spits you out. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
An avid fan of J. Kellerman's books, I've always been very impressed with his writing style. While 'Billy Straight' is still a good book, stylistically it seems to pay homage to a variety of mystery writers' styles. Unfortunately, this homage gets a bit distracting at times. A side note: If a female character is not interested in styles, trends, or labels, why is it necessary for her to note the label in every article of clothing she wears?
Guest More than 1 year ago

I liked Billy Straight and wished there had been more about him and less about the solving of another Hollywood murder. I found myself skimming the non-Billy story and then savoring each moment with the scared child.

I wasn't fooled by the murderer or the red herrings the author kept tossing about. I figured out 'who done it' right away, but I kept reading because I wanted to make sure that Billy survived the trauma of witnessing a brutal murder, trying to survive on the mean streets of LA and the loss of innocence.

I'm sure the author's been in touch with major motion picture studios in Hollywood. This story has all the makings of a box office hit. I just wish there had been more about Billy and Sam, the ancient Jewish man who finally befriends Billy. I liked Sam and would have put Billy in his charge.

I recommend this book....not as the best murder mystery on the block, but because I really liked the boy and his struggles to survive...and even prosper!

Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Billy Straight was a pretty good book. The book is about a boy who is 12 years old and is from Watson, California. The first chapter is very interesting. The first chapter is about a beautiful lady who gets murdered that had happened in a park called Griffith park in L. A. Billy so happen to have seen the murder because he spends most of his time in the park rather then at home. Billy is so scared and worried that the killer could have seen him he pisses his pants and runs away and tries to forget about it. From here this book makes you want to read on to find out what Billy is going to do weather he¿s going to tell or not. The next couple of chapters is boring it talks about two detectives that are going to be researching the murder. It talks to much about there own life. The next chapters get interesting again Billy decides to run away to Hollywood. He can¿t handle living with his mom¿s new boyfriend who always picks on him. Billy has no idea where he is going and what he¿s going to do. He found 126 dollars in a tampax box his mom hid away and decides to take that to use as spending money. Billy jumps on a bus to Hollywood and tries to start a new life by himself. Billy is actually a really smart boy and finds away to educate him self. A reason why I like this book was because of Billy Straight because of him it made the book interesting. the reason I didn¿t like this book was when Billy wasn¿t talking. It was too boring and not interesting I kind of got lost when he wasn¿t talking. This book made me think about homeless kids and kids with no parents. It must be really hard for them growing up on their own and having to learn on their own. I think that your parent¿s play a really big roll in life and for kids with out parents must have a hard time. I don¿t know how I would compare this book to other books because I don¿t read books hardly every. I can¿t remember when I read last. I would say this was a good book for me even though I don¿t like to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great story with great characters....very enjoyable except for the end......cant say more but didn't like it!