Even with all his years of experience, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis knows there are crimes his skill and savvy cannot solve alone. That’s when he calls on brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware to read between the lines, where the darkest motives lurk. And if ever the good doctor’s insight is needed, it’s at the scene of a murder as baffling as it is brutal.
There’s no spilled blood, no evidence of a struggle, and, thanks to the victim’s missing face and hands, no immediate means of identification. And no telling why the disfigured corpse of a stranger has appeared in an upscale L.A. family’s home. Chet Corvin, his wife, and their two teenage children are certain the John Doe is unknown to them. Despite that, their cooperation seems guarded. And that’s more than Milo and Alex can elicit from the Corvins’ creepy next-door neighbor—a notorious cartoonist with a warped sense of humor and a seriously antisocial attitude.
As the investigation ensues, it becomes clear that this well-to-do suburban enclave has its share of curious eyes, suspicious minds, and loose lips. And as Milo tightens the screws on potential persons of interest—and Alex tries to breach the barriers that guard their deepest secrets—a strangling web of corrupted love, cold-blooded greed, and shattered trust is exposed. Though the grass may be greener on these privileged streets, there’s enough dirt below the surface to bury a multitude of sins. Including the deadliest.
Praise for Night Moves
“Exceptionally well-plotted . . . Newcomers will find this an easy entry point into this long-running series.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A taut, procedural thriller . . . One of the most tightly plotted, tightly written of the Alex Delaware series . . . a real puzzler . . . Fans of the long-running Delaware series will be thrilled with this one, and because each book functions just fine as a stand-alone, there’s nothing keeping new readers from diving in.”—Booklist
“Jonathan Kellerman continues to amaze, dazzle, delight and entertain. . . . Night Moves is simply the best.”—Bookreporter
About the Author
Hometown:Beverly Hills, California
Date of Birth:August 9, 1949
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974
Read an Excerpt
Nice house. If you put aside reality.
Sunset Boulevard, Sunday at ten thirty p.m., was an easy ride, cool April air sweetening the Seville’s interior. To get here from my place in Beverly Glen, I’d driven through Bel Air and Brentwood, turned south a quarter mile into Pacific Palisades, continued through tree-lined stretches of architectural revivals: Colonial, Spanish, Mediterranean, Greek, Unidentifiable.
Not a Through Street warnings at most corners; a planned community discouraging casual visitors. GPS-tutored turns led me to a street named Evada Lane, three blocks terminating at a cul-de-sac.
Built-in-the-seventies tract, the Palisades but no palisades in sight. This was flat land, geographically undistinguished, too far from the ocean for someone to smell the brine.
In the Midwest, respectably middle-class real estate. In L.A., not a single structure worth less than a million.
The house garnering all the attention sat at the tip of the dead end like a cherry on a sundae. One of the aspiring Colonials, heralded by white columns, its brick façade strobed red and blue by LAPD cruisers. The same light show played upon a black Range Rover and a gray Lexus sedan in the driveway.
All that wattage courtesy of half a dozen cop cars, circled around a white crypt van waiting to transport. The crime lab van sat nearby, lights off, unoccupied. No sign of the coroner’s investigators; come and gone.
Uniformed officers stood around doing nothing. Radios barked police calls, dispatchers’ voices impersonal as they chronicled the evening’s malice and misfortune.
Soft, spring breeze; the yellow tape billowed.
Just outside the tape, a mud-colored Impala I knew to be Detective Moses Reed’s current ride sat next to a white Porsche 928 in which I’d been a passenger more than once. The off-duty drive shared by Lieutenant Milo Sturgis and his partner, a trauma surgeon named Richard Silverman.
Reed had arrived just over two hours ago, taken one look, and called the boss. Milo, suffering through a charity dinner for Rick’s employer, the Cedars-Sinai E.R., sped over from the Beverly Hilton and called me.
“What’s up?” I said.
“Complicated, see for yourself. Please.”
He met me just outside the front door, wearing a hooded paper suit, booties, and gloves.
“Yeah, I know, I look like a giant sperm. You don’t have to abase yourself, tech’s nearly finished.” He peeled off the suit, revealing a saggy black suit with lapels dating to the house’s construction, a white shirt, and a silver tie that had to be Rick’s.
“The almost-tux?” he said. “Damn banquet, I had to take the pants out three inches, four woulda been better—enough of my problems, let’s go see a real one.”
The paper garb had led me to expect horror and chaos. Milo opened the door on surprising calm.
A two-story entry floored in waxed walnut was centered by a mahogany table hosting a vase of silk roses. A bronze chandelier cast reassuring light. To the left, blandly pleasant landscape paintings filled a white wall; to the right a blue-carpeted staircase traced the ascent to a small landing.
Milo continued straight ahead, toward another wall decorated by sconces and broken by an open doorway.
A form moved into the gap. Moe Reed, young, ruddy, still wearing his paper suit but not the hood. Pink skin showed through his blond buzz cut. The suit was tight in places, power-lifter arms testing the tensile strength of wood pulp.
“L.T., Doc.” Stepping aside.
I followed Milo into a modestly proportioned, nicely set-up living room that ended at a bank of French doors. Through the glass were glimpses of patio furniture, grass, trees. To the left, a dining room and, beyond that, another open doorway that led to a white kitchen.
When people are murdered in their homes, it’s almost always in the bedroom or the kitchen. Milo kept going, crossing the living room and hooking right, toward a closed door.
A female voice said, “Hold on.”
“It’s me again.”
“Just a sec, Lieutenant.”
The door opened on a paper-suited lab tech name-tagged I. Jonas. The mask was pulled down, revealing a young female face the color of hot chocolate. Tweezers in one hand, vial in the other, something black and wormy in the vial.
She said, “Just a few secs and I’ll be gone, sir, but you can come in.”
“Thanks,” said Milo. “I want Dr. Delaware to take a look.”
I. Jonas looked at me. “Pathologist actually came to the scene?”
Milo said, “Different ologist. Psych.”
The tech gave me a longer once-over. “Inez Jonas, Doctor. I’d shake your hand but obviously.” She shifted to the right, gave me a fuller view.
The room was cozy and pine-paneled. What looked to be a library/den/office combo, with a book-filled repro-Victorian case and a matching desk. The desk’s tooled-leather top was bare but for a green-shaded lamp and a glass jar filled with hard candies wrapped in multicolored foil. To the left of the desk was an open area. A plaid sofa and ottoman faced a sixty-inch TV.
That left plenty of floor space for the man lying on hardwood, between the couch and the screen.
Positioned faceup if he’d had a face.
The devastation visited on everything above his neck suggested a shotgun attack, and I asked if that was the case.
Inez Jonas said, “You bet, Doctor, tons of pellets in there.” She frowned as her eyes trailed to where the man’s hands should’ve been. I’d already gotten there.
Dual amputation at the wrists, clean and straight-edged. Stiffness in the limbs.
I said, “Still in rigor.”
Milo nodded. “C.I. says depending on temperature, he was probably killed within twenty-hour hours, probably less. She’s also sure the hands were cut off postmortem because there wasn’t much bleeding at the stumps.”
“Not much blood, period.”
Inez Jonas said, “No kidding. I found a few little drops on the wood just under him, no spatter either high- or low-velocity, just a teeny bit of runoff from here.” Pointing to the neck, which canted to the right. A wispy streak the color of rosé wine trailed down gray flesh.
She held the vial up to Milo. “The other thing I found was this, just before you came back. On the floor, under his butt.”
He squinted. “Plastic?”
“Yes, sir,” said Jonas. “Maybe it’s just random dirt that was already here and his pants picked it up. But I’m thinking it looks like it’s from a garbage bag and that could explain how they got him here, no? ’Cause he sure wasn’t killed here. Or cut up here.”
Milo said, “Done somewhere else, cleaned up meticulously, and bagged. Once he’s here, bad guy does some fine-tuning and takes the bag. Yeah, I like it, good thinking.”
Jonas beamed. “Psycho-crazy thinking but logical if you’re in that orbit.”
Looking at the corpse had made my eyes and teeth hurt so I shifted to a visual scan of the room. But for the corpse, as impeccable as the rest of the house.
I looked down at the poor faceless soul again, trying to ignore the gore and concentrating on the mundane details that sometimes tell you plenty.
Medium height, medium build, age impossible to discern but thinning sandy hair and a bald spot suggested middle age. So did the clothing: a pale-blue button-collar shirt, tan windbreaker, pleated blue jeans pretending to be slacks, white socks, white Nike walking shoes. The pockets of the jeans had been turned inside out.
I said, “Was he left that way?”
Jonas said, “No, Doctor. C.I. went looking for the I.D. and turned them out. They were empty. Same for the jacket pockets.”
Milo said, “No face, no hands, no I.D., pretty obvious what the goal was. Now the big question: How the hell did he end up here when the homeowners say they have no idea who he is?”
I said, “Where are the owners?”
“Nearby.” He stared at the body, scowled, and played with an earlobe. His big, pale, acne-pitted face tightened as he brushed black hair off a lumpy forehead. A speck of some kind of foodstuff from the interrupted dinner sat just above his upper lip, left of center. Off-white, maybe rubber chicken. Or cheese. Another time, I’d have pointed it out.
Inez Jonas looked at me again. “It’s a weird one, Lieutenant.”
“Ergo, a psychologist. Any first-impression insights, Alex?”
I said, “Who are the owners?”
My non-answer made Milo frown. “A family, the Corvins. They left for a family dinner at six fifteen, Sunday thing, they do it once, twice a month. Usually they stay local. This time, they took a drive all the way to La Cienega, Lawry’s, Restaurant Row. They get back just before nine, everyone goes upstairs except Dad who comes in here to record a show on his big-screen and finds this. Moments later, Mom comes down to ask him what’s taking so long and screams and that brings the kids down and now it’s a family affair.”
Inez Jonas said, “Talk about a welcome home.”
I said, “How many kids and what age?”
Milo said, “Coupla teenagers, or the young one’s a tweener. They did the smart thing and ran the hell out and knocked on the neighbor’s door. He’s the one who 911’d. If you’ve seen enough here, I’d like you to meet them.”
I said, “Let’s do it.”
Inez Jonas said, “Good luck, Lieutenant.” Her expression said, You’re going to need it.
Moe Reed was still posted in the doorway, working his phone. “Anything, L.T.?”
“Nah, go home, patrol can guard the scene.”
“You’re sure? I’ve got time.”
“Positive, Moses.” He told Reed about the scrap of plastic. “Could mean something or nothing.”
Reed said, “Too bad those bags are pretty much generic.”
“A bloody one isn’t, Moses. On your way out, have a bunch of those uniforms do a six-block search for the bag—for anything bloody. It’s unlikely someone who took the time to cut off hands and take I.D. would be careless enough to toss evidence out in the open, but we can’t assume.”
“I’ll canvass with them,” said Reed. “Didn’t notice any alleys or dumpsters on my way in, but there is that shopping area a few blocks west, got to be plenty of potential dump spots near there.”
Reed stripped off his paper suit. His on-call civilian threads were a gray Gold’s Gym T-shirt and white sweatpants. Bouncing on his heels a couple of times, he jogged out of the house.
“Ah, youth,” said Milo.
As we left the house, I said, “How many points of access?”
“If you don’t count windows, the front door, a service door from a laundry room off the kitchen, and those French doors. Everything was locked when the Corvins got home, but the laundry door looks pretty dinky.”
“Any security system?”
“An alarm, they’re pretty sure they didn’t set it.”
“Casual approach to personal safety,” I said.
“Nice neighborhood,” he said. “People get lulled. The system came with the house, sensors on the ground floor but not the second. Like bad guys can’t bring ladders. We looked for evidence of a ladder, any sort of disruption, couldn’t find any, and the second-story windows were all closed. I’m leaning toward the utility door as point of entry.”
“Someone familiar with the place? Knowing the lock was dinky?”
“That would explain it,” he said. “Yet another reason to play Meet the Family.” He scowled.
I said, “These people bother you.”
“So far, nothing says they’re dirty. But something about them, Alex—I’ll let you be the judge.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read all the alex delaware novels and enjoyed th series. This one started out slow, but improved as it went. I had my doubts that this was going to be worth reading, the last one certainly wasn't( old lady,old hotel). Kellerman is still one of the better authors to read, but something has changed in his stories, they just are not as good as they used to be. Its like kellerman is tired of writing milo & alex stories so he just going by the formula, plugging in the data, but just doesn't care about making the story anything but average...just grinding out a run of the mill story.. I'm not sure that i will continue reading this series. At $15.00 a pop, its to expensive and then to be disappointed on top of that...it is just not worth it.
The characters feel so tired and worn out. Maybe time to retire them? I really wanted to love it, the story started off a little slow but picked up nicely. Definitely not one of my favorite Delaware novels, by far.
Story was complex and interesting. Unpredictable turns and chanel as more info comes to light. Enjoyed it, wsh it went on longer!
Excellent writing, suspenseful story, scary characters and interesting interaction between Milo and Alex
I have read most if not all of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels. I love Alex and Milo, although Blanche is probably my favorite character. When I saw this was a Delaware novel, I immediately requested the book for review. The story starts immediately with a body, which I always appreciate. Right from the first sentence, Alex is rolling out to catch up with Milo. And what an interesting conundrum - a man is found with no face and his hands have been removed, and he is in a house that is not his and where no one knows him. What an interesting and difficult case. And then there's a second body, and things really get interesting. Night Moves is typical Kellerman - all the descriptions, the driving around doing legwork with Milo, the massive meals. The book moves along at a good clip and is highly entertaining. As always, I look forward to the next venture with Dr. Delaware.
Just finished this book and Loved it! Love Alex and Milos as a team. This book will keep you guessing, there are many twists and turns and many "oh no" moments! When a body shows up faceless and handless in a families home you will be shocked, you will not want to put this book down until you get to who did it and why!
This was not my favorite story. Found it a bit draggy.
Reading a Kellerman book is like visiting with great old friends once a year (sometimes twice if you're lucky...). Mostly it's fabulous, sometimes it's a bit of a meh, but it's always welcome, it's entirely comfortable, you really enjoy yourself and you very much look forward to the next time.
Love this book!
Lots of twists and turns. Love his books.
I hate when i finish one of Kellermans books because it means i have to wait at least another year for his next book
Tempted as I am to give this one 5 stars just because psychologist and LAPD consultant Dr. Alex Delaware has long been near the top of my 10 all-time favorite "heroes," I have to be honest and say this one isn't my pick of the 33-book litter. Do not think I didn't enjoy it, though - it's just that the pace seemed a little slower and the number of characters maybe half a dozen too many for my aging brain to keep straight through a rather complex plot that jumps from suspect to suspect and back again. Also a bit of a disappointment is that Alex's main squeeze, Robin, is noticeably missing for almost all the action (even their lovable dog, Blanche, gets more page time). Still, Alex remains at the top of his game, and his pal and professional colleague, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, remains just as curmudgeonly. The story begins when a mutilated male body turns up in an odd place - the home of a family of four, none of whom claims to have a clue as to who the dead guy might be. Milo catches the case, and almost immediately he calls on Alex for help. Clearly, the man was murdered elsewhere - so why would he end up in the home of people he doesn't know? Complicating the case are an obnoxious husband, an even more obnoxious wife, a teenage son with a king-size attitude problem, a sister who might be described generously as three bricks shy of a chimney and a next-door neighbor with hermit tendencies. To be sure, there's more to that neighborhood than meets the eye, but nobody's talking (except perhaps that obnoxious husband, who just can't seem to shut up). The trail leads Alex and Milo to a few other oddball characters in nearby parts of the state and back again, with driving time interspersed with enough musings, psychological insights and banter between the old friends to keep things interesting until all the trails begin to merge. Bottom line? Another solid book - just not exciting enough that I was willing to miss the final round of Olympics ice dancing to finish the final three chapters. It was, however, the first free-time task I tackled the following morning.
A thrilling read that will have you guessing all the way until the end. Milo pulls Alex into a mysterious case that brings out more questions than answers. After coming home from a dinner a family finds a body in their study. The biggest problem for Milo is figuring out who the dead man is, you see the body is unidentifiable. When they figure out who he is they can find no connections between him and the Corvin's. Things are getting stale when Mr. Corvin ends up dead and the investigation into his death ensues. Are the murders connected in any way? Who could the killer be, the weird neighbor, a stranger? Is there more than one killer? Follow along as Milo and Alex try to figure out just that and why. Each new book just adds to this authors sensational collection of work. I can't wait to see where he takes us next.
Night Moves – Jonathan Kellerman Milo Sturgis & Alex Delaware are back again, as they team up together to solve another perplexing case. A family goes to dinner one night, only to return to find a corpse in their father’s study – and not just any corpse – there’s no blood, no clues as to his sudden appearance, and the victim is missing his face and his hands, making identification difficult. Milo Sturgis lands the case, and quickly asks Alex Delaware to assist. The family in question appears to cooperate, but reeks of dysfunction – the brash overbearing father, the meek timid mother, the quiet, reserved daughter, and the son who acts out loudly and inappropriately. But collectively, no one knows the identity of the body in their home, or has any idea who might have left it there…or why. As missing persons reports eventually lead to the identification of the body, yet more questions arise, and the focus shifts to the reclusive neighbor, remembered for his unscrupulous cartoon drawings, yet rebuffs any interaction from his neighbors, or police. As Milo & Alex navigate each new lead, new motives, and long buried secrets are revealed, and the case reaches a stunning, yet unexpected conclusion! This is Kellerman in top form!
Reliable Alex and Milo story - first two thirds were five star - last third not so much. Always happy to return to these characters.
I have been a Kellerman fan since my wife introduced me to his books many years ago. Reading Night Moves is like catching up with an old friend. Only the friend happens to be a consulting psychologist for the L.A.P. D. A body has been found in the den of a seemingly innocent homeowner, in a prosperous neighborhood of Los Angeles. The i.d. is hard to make and why the corpse is in the den is even more problematic. Milo Sturgis, Kellerman's ever-present homicide detective is on the scene with Alex Delaware, his friend, and psychologist. Apart from the obnoxious attitude of the homeowner, little is revealed. That is the beauty of Night Moves. A simple beginning turns into an absorbing and twisty murder mystery worthy of your complete dedication and attention. Characters are introduced, but are they important, or a distraction? Who knows? The only way to find out is to take a weekend and join the fun. Kellerman is one of the best at his craft. And by the way, if you are new to him, please check out his long and illustrious backlist.
I would say this is like a tribute book to Dr. Delaware. The book is overall a 5 star quality on storyline, a 4 on the slow pace of the book, and a 4 on less than usual quality dialogue.