Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: DEVIL'S WALTZ (1993) by Jonathan Kellerman

I admit I've stopped reading Kellerman's Alex Delaware books. Why? Well, for a very specific reason: I loathe one of the characters and can take no more of her.

Yes, you guessed it - if you're familiar with the books - that guitar-maker Robin  has defeated me. What a creature! I simply cannot stand her, much less can I stand Alex Delaware's constant forgiveness of her erratic behavior. The man's a psychologist, for goodness' sake!

Sad to say: I've lost respect for Alex.

When she came back yet again after dumping him for the umpteenth time - for no good reason than she just felt like it - I threw the book across the room and that, as they say, is that.

So why am I recommending one of Kellerman's books today?

Simple. This is an early book. Early on, Robin was tolerable - annoying but tolerable.

The first ten or so Alex Delaware books are excellent psychological thrillers set in L.A. where Delaware is a child psychologist and police consultant. His friend, Milo Sturgis, is the first openly gay cop on the L.A.P.D. (He is in a committed long-term relationship with a doctor.)  It's a good friendship and I like that Alex isn't leery in any way of Milo's intentions - nor is Milo leery of Alex. They're two men who, believably, are friends.

At any rate, THE DEVIL'S WALTZ is one of the best Alex Delaware books and possibly one of the more disturbing.

The story begins when a doctor grows suspicious of a young patient's circumstances. Cassie Jones is a 21 month old toddler who is constantly showing up at the hospital's emergency room, brought in by her anxious parents. Cassie is suffereing from various illnesses which the medical staff can't seem to isolate.

Her parents are deeply concerned, naturally, and appear loving and helpful. But the doctor suspects that something is not quite right. He calls in child psychologist Alex Delaware to investigate.

Munchausen by proxy is a frightening condition that causes some parents to intentionally make a child ill. Of all mental disorders it is, perhaps, one of the most terrifying because the victim is usually a young, helpless child.

Alex begins to suspect that this is exactly what's at work on Cassie Jones. Who is responsible? It's thought that the mother is usually the cause, but fathers too can come under suspicion. Or could it be someone nearer to home? Someone on staff?

The  mystery deepens when a hospital physician is brutally murdered - is there a connection?

Alex and Milo race against time to save Cassie's life and discover who, among this various cast of characters, is a monster.

This is a terrifying thriller with a deadly scheme at its heart.

I really do recommend the first ten or so Alex Delaware books. If you can stomach Robin's comings and goings, you might even like the rest of them. It's totally up to you.

For a complete list of Jonathan Kellerman's books, please use this link.

Kellerman is married to mystery novelist Faye Kellerman, in case the name seemed familiar.

Friday means Forgotten Books day around here. This is a weekly meme hosted by Patti Abbott at her blog,  PATTINASE  Don't forget to check in and see what other forgotten books other bloggers are recommending today.


  1. Yvette,

    I, too, was a long-time fan of Kellerman's works, but stopped reading him for two reasons. The most important was that I felt it was getting increasingly graphic in its description of violence (I don't need those images in my head), and the second was Robin.

    I never did understand Kellerman's strategy in making her the way she was.

  2. Yes, I agree, Fred, he did get increasingly graphic. I wasn't crazy about that aspect either. The early books are graphic enough, thank you very much.

    But that Robin character. Jeez. She is definitely Alex's weakness. The thing is, there's just nothing likeable about her.

    I can't understand why Kellerman didn't just let her go this last time she walked out. I'll bet we're not the only two who dislike her.

    I was kind of hoping she'd be killed off. :)

  3. Yvette,

    Perhaps that's the point. Kellerman is attempting to show that Alec, in spite of being a superb and discerning psychologist, is still human and fallible.

  4. There has to be a better way, Fred! She is dreadful AND costing him readers.

    He merely seems weak-willed to me.

  5. Yvette,

    This reminds me of a similar situation. I belong to a classics f-t-f group that was reading a series of novels by Trollope. I had developed an extreme dislike for one of the recurring characters. In fact, it got so bad that I stopped reading one of the novels about 1/3 of the way through it.

    Several months later, we read the next novel in the series, and I definitely was not happy to once again encounter this character. However, I had read only several pages when I learned that the character had "died" during the interval between the two novels.

    I almost cheered out loud when I read that.

  6. Oh I've been known to cheer as well, Fred. Either at a positive development I'd long hoped for or the death of a character or whatever.

    I do get emotionally caught up in books. :)

    In between mystery reading I am currently reading my first Trollope: CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? Coincidence? I think not.

    There's Trollope in the air this year. :)

  7. I used to be a devoted reader of Jonathan Kellerman's novels(and also his wife Faye's novels), but like you, I've lost interest. The same with Patricia Cornwall's novels. I think after awhile authors feels they have to make their protagonist become "quirky" in order to keep their readers interest, when just the opposite is true!

  8. Pat: There's a way of keeping readers interested during the life of a long-term series. Obviously Kellerman has lost that way.

    I've never read Patricia Cornwell, but I suppose that's happened to her as well.


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