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Serpent's Tooth (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #10)

Serpent's Tooth (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #10)

4.1 22
by Faye Kellerman

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A man walks into a trendy Los Angeles restaurant -- a disgruntled ex-employee with an automatic weapon -- and seconds later, thirteen people are dead and thirty-two more have been wounded. It is a heinous act of mass slaughter that haunts Homicide Detective Peter Decker.

But, though eyewitnesses saw only the lone gunman -- who apparently took his own life


A man walks into a trendy Los Angeles restaurant -- a disgruntled ex-employee with an automatic weapon -- and seconds later, thirteen people are dead and thirty-two more have been wounded. It is a heinous act of mass slaughter that haunts Homicide Detective Peter Decker.

But, though eyewitnesses saw only the lone gunman -- who apparently took his own life after his bloody work was done -- evidence suggests more than one weapon was fired. It is a disturbing inconsistency that sends Decker racing headlong into a sordid, labyrinthine world of Southern California money and power, on an investigation that threatens to destroy his reputation and his career.

Editorial Reviews

Readers will be frantically flipping pages. .
San Francisco Examiner
One of the best in the series. . . .
Detroit News
Reading a good thriller is very much like taking a great vacation: half the fun is getting there. Faye Kellerman is one heck of a tour guide. .
S.E. Warwick
...[W]eaves the gritty reality of contemporary Los Angeles and the ancient covenants of Orthodox Judaism into a complex tale that is both entertaining and educational....Kellerman throws in just enough details from Decker’s home life to let us know that like anything else, being a homicide detective is a job, more demanding than many, but still a means to put bread on the table....[B]lends character and plot into a satisfying whole.
Mystery Magazine Online \ \ \
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Layering crisis upon crisis, Kellerman builds a page-turner in this 10th Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novel, which, like previous titles in the series (most recently Prayers for the Dead), is based on a complex, carefully established network of relationships. A former employee of a ritzy restaurant opens fire there, killing 13 people and wounding dozens; then he commits suicide. Or so it seems, until LAPD Lieutenant Peter Decker and his team spot inconsistencies. Fatal bullets came from several directions; a single gunman could not have sprayed so many shots; and one murdered couple left an estate worth millions. Decker suspects their daughter, Jeanine Garrison, a beautiful but manipulative charity organizer with penchants for power and handsome young tennis players. He connects her with a suspected killer, but she pressures police brass to back off and then hits the detective with a bogus sexual harassment complaint. When a mysterious drug overdose kills her brother, Jeanine gets the entire inheritance. While Decker struggles with the murders (the grisly killings trigger Vietnam flashbacks) and departmental politics, his older daughter from his first marriage, Cindy, decides to become a cop. Decker is appalled, but Cindy's ambition could help crack the case. Decker's wife, Rina Lazarus, stands on the sidelines here, trying to smooth relations between their Orthodox Jewish household and Decker's adoptive Baptist family, until it's she who makes use of her husband's past to reveal the final piece of the puzzle. Lots of action, an intricate plot and credible, multi-dimensional characters make this another standout entry in an evolving series.
Library Journal
Kellerman's (Prayers for the Dead, LJ 8/96) popular L.A. detective duo here investigate a Southern California-style mass murder in a trendy restaurant.
Kirkus Reviews
Why would somebody walk into trendy Estelle's and spray the diners with gunfire, killing 13 of them and wounding 32? Even when the shooter's identified as Harlan Manz, disgruntled former Estelle's bartender, Lt. Peter Decker's not satisfied—especially when forensics start to paint a picture of a second gunman. And that means a plan; it probably means murder for hire, with the first gunman recast as the last victim. But when Decker's team, investigating the dead diners' links to Manz's former employer, the Greenvale Country Club, strike gold—Manz's sometime tennis partner, charity fund-raiser Jeanine Garrison, inherited millions when her parents were killed at Estelle's—the case blows up in their face: Manipulative Jeanine blows hot and cold when Decker questions her, then trumps up a harassment suit against him and succeeds in getting him lifted from the case. Doubly determined to nail her, Decker pulls out all the stops running down possible links between her and the second shooter. Meantime, his loyal wife Rina Lazarus and his daughter Cindy (who's already antagonized her father by announcing that she's been accepted at the Police Academy) huddle with their own freelance operatives to back up his hunch. Anybody care to place a bet on the battle between the Decker family and the oh-so-charming psychopath Jeanine?

Nail-biting detective work, though the results rather undermine the suspicions that put Decker on the culprit's scent in the first place. Midlevel Kellerman, not up to Prayers for the Dead (1996), but well ahead of her soapier Decker-Lazarus domestic dramas.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series , #10
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Read an Excerpt

Not Wendy Culligan, who was too busy pitching million dollar condos to a half-dozen Japanese businessmen more interested in her rear than in residences. Still, she patiently went about her spiel, talking about in-house services, drop dead views, revolving mortgages, and great resale values.

Leaning over the table, showing a touch of cleavage while spearing a jumbo shrimp off the seafood appetizer plate. Along with the prawns were oysters, abalone, gravlax, and raw sea-urchin sashimi, the last item a big hit with the Asians—something about making them potent.

Men—regardless of race, creed, or color—thought only about sex. And here she was, trying to earn an honest buck while they popped squiggly things into their mouths, washing the tidbits down with sake as they licked their lips suggestively.

What's a poor working girl to do?

Inwardly, Wendy acknowledged that Brenda, her boss, had been generous in arranging the dinner at Estelle's. The restaurant was exquisite—all silver and crystal and candle light. Antique mahogany buffets and chests rested against walls lined with elegant sky-blue Oriental silk screens. Exotic flower arrangements adorned every table—giant lilies, imported orchids, and twotone roses. A hint of perfume, but never overwhelming. The chairs were not only upholstered in silky fabric but comfortable as well. Even the bar role she could have for life. If she was willing to indulge him from time to time. Which she did gracefully.

Good old Addie. As steady as the old gray mare.

Walter looked across the table, through the diamond-cut stemware. Good grade Waterford. Estelle had done it up nicely. Elegant without being pompous. And goodfood. No wonder the place was always jammed.

He'd had doubts about bringing Big Hair here. She had dolled up for the occasion, and much to Walter's surprise, she had pulled it off without looking cheap.

A gray-haired old lady smiled at him, nodded.

Walter nodded back.

Ah, recognition. It was sweet.

However, it was not quite as sweet as Big Hair's ass. Walter looked deeply into his table companion's baby blues, his eyes shifting downward to her superb surgically designed chest. He felt a tug in his pants and that was wonderful. At seventy-eight, no hard-on was ever taken for granted.

Face it, Walter said to himself. At seventy-eight, waking up in the morning was a cause for celebration.

So enamored of his sexual response and his beating heart, Walter didn't think about the serious young man leaning against the bar, his eyes as chilled as the drink he was nursing.

Carol Anger did glance at the thin young man in the green coat, thinking he looked familiar. She couldn't quite place him. A face that had changed and had changed again. But she couldn't dwell on it because she was too busy. Gretchen had called in sick and Carol was running double shift.

On her slate was a nice group of tables. Carol especially liked the party of sweet-sixteeners in the corner. Eight giggly girls trying to pretend they were grown-ups, decked out in sophisticated suits and too much makeup.

Like she had been at sixteen—sans the suits and jewelry of course. She had grown up in a home where money had always been tight. But down deep, all sixteen-year-old girls were the same.

Where had the time gone?

At first, right after her divorce, her life had been a blur of tears. Tears of fury at her ex, tears of gratitude at her parents for their love and understanding.

And their help.

Mom had come through. Always there when Carol needed her. Saying she'd take care of Billy so Carol could go back to nursing school. Carol had insisted on doing her fair share. Hence the job . . . this job. And it was a doozy.

She had Olaf to thank for that.

She had met him at a bar, had laughed when he had told her his name.



He had blushed when she laughed. Which of course had made her feel terrible. Olaf had come to America to be a cook. When he told her he worked at Estelle's, she had nearly fainted.

You're not a cook, she had chided. You're a chef!

Within a month, Olaf had convinced Estelle to give Carol a job interview. A week later, she was dressed in a tux and ready to work.

How she loved Olaf, with his half smile, his stoic manner, and his thick upper lip that was often dotted with sweat from the heat of the kitchen. She had often wondered how she could have been so upset over her failed marriage, since from it came all this good fortune. So occupied by her fate and work, Carol failed to see the thin young man's mouth turn into a twisted smile, his eyes as blank as snowdrifts.

Ken Wetzel didn't think twice about him. He was too busy slurping up oysters while giving his wife the bad news. He was trying to be as gentle as possible but it wasn't coming out right.

It wasn't that he didn't love Tess. He guessed he still did. She had been there for him, was still a decent wife, a good mother, and a passable lover. Unfortunately, she just didn't fit into his world anymore.

Especially since he had been promoted to assistant vice president.

He needed a partner who was more dynamic, not some ordinary woman whose sole occupation was raising children. Granted, the kids were good kids . . . Tess's doing. But that wasn't enough anymore. A woman had to know things—how to dress, how to smile, how to make conversation about the vagaries of the market. A woman like that could help him get ahead. Trouble was, Tess was holding him back.

A great gal, but a high-school dropout. And with the last kid, she had gotten heavy. Those awful tents she wore. Why did the prints always have to be so garish? Why didn't she realize she would have looked more sophisticated and sleek in a plain black suit?

That was Tess.

Ken sighed inwardly, wishing she'd wipe the tears off her cheeks. Because she was embarrassing him. He closed his eyes for a moment, allowing himself a brief fantasy of Sherrie. Sherrie, with her milky eyes, her sensuous mouth her wonderful hips, her full breasts, and her MBA from Stanford.

They had met on interoffice E-mail, she being in marketing, he being two floors up in stock research. He joked that it had been love at first byte. The affair was almost immediate, fueled by the thrill of their respective infidelities and what each one could do for the other's career.

Yes, Ken still loved Tess on some level. And yes, Ken still cared for the kids. But life was about reaching one's polentiah. The marriage just wouldn't work any longer.

Times change, he had told her.

Life changes.

You move on.

With each pronouncement, Tess had shed a new batch of tears.

Still, the drama of the evening did little to quell his appetite. As much as he hated himself, he had to admit that telling Tess it was over was a definite high. The exhilaration of liberation.

Flying high with freedom, Ken paid no attention to the thin young man. Not even when the young man's face fell flat, turning his physiognomy into something inanimate, his eyes as murky as pond water.

No one even noticed when he reached into the pocket of his green Jacket.

Not until he pulled out a gun and the lead began to fly.

But by then, it was too late.

Copyright ) 1997 by Faye Kellerman

Meet the Author

Faye Kellerman lives with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman, in Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Brief Biography

Beverly Hills, California
Date of Birth:
July 31, 1952
Place of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
B.A. in Mathematics, 1974; D.D.A., 1978

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Serpent's Tooth 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good. It was interesting, the plot moved along quickly, and the ending was satisfying, if abrupt, but there were a few odd things. Whenever Kellerman inserts Cindy Decker into the mix, I feel the book is less enjoyable, but that might be my prejudice against that character. The other strange thing is the trickery the police use against teenagers, especially Cindy going undercover and Abel visiting Malcolm in prison. It's very unrealistic and, frankly, quite stupid. As to the plot: there's a horrific murder at a fancy restaurant and the shooter seems to kill himself at the scene, the police soon decide that there was a second shooter, and they quickly blame the violence on a wealthy seductress named Jeanine, who uses sex to manipulate young men. However, Jeanine claims that she is being harassed when the detectives speak to her, even stooping to accusing Decker of sexual harassment, and she goes on to set up her brother's murder to keep their entire inheritence while the police have their hands tied. After Decker's daughter Cindy goes undercover at a Scrabble tournament and meets a boy from the same prep school as Jeanine's newest boytoy and killing tool, the case is almost solved, and then one of Decker's old friends visits the killer in jail to reveal Jeanine's engagement to another man, so the kid confesses everything and Jeanine is arrested.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First book I have read by this author: She knows how to tell a tale and hold the reader¿s attention from page one on, and I fully intend to read more of her Decker/Lazarus series. However, there are three major problems with this particular book you should be aware of. One: a la TV¿s Columbo, there is no mystery as to who ¿done it.¿ Two: a la Stephen King, the ending is really, really weak, so weak in fact that on their way to arrest the murderer, Decker and his detectives agree that the accomplice was stupid to tell them how the perp did it. Finally, a la Louis L¿Amour at his worst, when the good guy gets the ¿bad guy¿ the story ends ¿immediately. I know this is a series but I really hate when that happens. After expending time (and money) getting to know a book¿s characters I really feel cheated when it¿s author does that to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is for the most part really interesting. There are several elements-the crime itself, the unanswered questions, pressure from the public and political pressure, and also personal enemity- at work to make the plot move along quickly.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Winked. And gave a signal to move in onthem...
Anonymous 11 months ago
Spotted some tracks. I smell...elk! A whole herd!
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LynnS More than 1 year ago
Another Faye Kellerman classic. This one also leaves you wondering till the last page. Filled with suspense and unexpected turns. I just started the next in the series.
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smokeymike More than 1 year ago
One of the better books in the Decker/Lazarus series. Plot is believable, the characters are nasty, and the conclusion is satisfying.
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