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Crime Scene


Crime Scene

I’ve had some discussions with folks recently about author collaborations. One of my favorites in recent years has been the father-son pairing of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. Jonathan’s name has been synonymous with his creation, Alex Delaware, a consulting LAPD child psychologist. Jesse doesn’t have a lengthy backlist yet, but gives every sign that he will, as he has published a series of excellent stand-alone, genre-blurring works. Jonathan and Jesse got together a few years ago and wrote two impressive books: THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD and a sequel, THE GOLEM OF PARIS (any chance of turning that into a trilogy, gentlemen?). They have now favored us with CRIME SCENE, which appears to be the first installment of a mystery series featuring a somewhat unique protagonist and a memorable supporting cast.

"There are a couple of surprises...and a few twists and turns, but the novel runs primarily on the aforementioned dialogue and characterization as opposed to keep the pages turning."

CRIME SCENE introduces Clay Edison to the world of detective fiction and police procedural literature. Clay is a deputy coroner with the Berkeley Police Department. It’s definitely a different position, carried out in an environment so hostile that it easily could qualify for hazardous duty pay, made more difficult by the way Clay quietly chafes at the investigative limits under which he functions. He’s not quite a detective and not quite a police officer, as one usually thinks of those occupations. He is called out to scenes where dead bodies are present and must rule if the demise of the deceased is due to natural causes, foul play or the dreaded “undetermined.” He also manifests a quiet vulnerability secondary to a leg injury sustained when he was a star collegiate basketball player. We pick up on this over the course of the first half of CRIME SCENE, the information doled out in dribs and drabs by the Kellermans.

What gets the book going is the death of Walter Rennert, who is as dead as Julius Caesar when we meet him. Rennert seems almost certain to have joined the choir invisible through a combination of age, bad cardio and alcohol. But his daughter, Tatiana, is convinced that he was murdered and pressures Clay to treat the incident as such. Clay is not exactly immune to Tatiana’s charm --- she is as exotic as her name --- and reluctantly begins investigating the circumstances of Rennert’s life. What he discovers is intriguing. Rennert was at one time a highly respected psychologist who resigned from a university position when a controversial research study in which he was involved apparently resulted in the murder of a young woman. Interestingly enough, someone else who was linked to the research wound up dead in a manner very similar to Rennert some years previous to his demise, and it appears that the after effects of the ill-fated experiment of some decades before are rippling through time.

Clay makes a number of people unhappy as he uses the present to leverage himself into an investigation of the past, and for good reason. What he finds is an injustice visited upon more than one innocent, and it may be too late to set things right. That isn’t going to stop Clay, however, even if he has to leave his jurisdiction to do it.

I initially thought that CRIME SCENE was perhaps more Jonathan than Jesse, though I have somewhat revised that conclusion. The collaboration is so seamless that I’m now thinking the dialogue is more Jonathan and the characters more Jesse. It’s a terrific book, regardless. There are a couple of surprises --- one that I didn’t see coming at all occurs in the first quarter --- and a few twists and turns, but the novel runs primarily on the aforementioned dialogue and characterization as opposed to fisticuffs (of which there is basically none) to keep the pages turning.

Whether you are a fan of either or both of the authors, or you are unfamiliar with their previous work, you should put CRIME SCENE at the top of your reading pile.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 3, 2017

Crime Scene
by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman