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The Museum of Desire: An Alex Delaware Novel


The Museum of Desire: An Alex Delaware Novel

The Alex Delaware books by Jonathan Kellerman have been a longtime favorite of mine. There is a dependable line of familiarity that connects the individual novels in the series, namely the odd-couple friendship between Alex, the child psychologist, and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis. I look forward to the scene in each book where Milo, a bear of a man in stature, comes into Alex’s home and paws through his refrigerator while a bemused Alex looks on.

It is easy to forget that in WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, the opening installment in the series, Alex was burned out and in retirement until Milo brought him back to the land of the living by asking him for assistance with an especially difficult case. The Los Angeles landscape, so wonderfully described in each of the books, has provided several challenging cases since then. 2020’s entry is titled THE MUSEUM OF DESIRE and gives us yet another of the “difficults,” as well as some of Kellerman’s best writing to date. No surprise there. It also features one of his most memorable mysteries in a series full of them.

"[THE MUSEUM OF DESIRE gives us] some of Kellerman’s best writing to date. No surprise there. It also features one of his most memorable mysteries in a series full of them."

THE MUSEUM OF DESIRE begins at a vacant mansion that has been rented out for a party for a large group of spoiled high school swells. A member of the cleaning crew tasked with restoring order to the after-gathering mess stumbles onto a horrifying tableau. It consists of a Rolls-Royce that has been left on the premises and contains a mismatched quartet of corpses bizarrely staged within, each with blood poured over their lower bodies. There is no apparent connection among the four people aside from being murder victims. Milo is relentless in his investigation, well aware of his obligation to speak for the dead in the sense of bringing the instrument of their premature demise to justice.

Alex, as he frequently (though not always) does, takes a very active role in his assistance to Milo in THE MUSEUM OF DESIRE, a title that is particularly appropriate given the manner of death of the victims and their collective display. It is Alex who provides a couple of significant breaks in the case --- one through good old-fashioned surveillance and the other by functioning as a conduit for some information provided from an unlikely source. Accordingly, the investigation moves into a couple of unexpected directions, leading to a denouement against a surprising backdrop that will leave readers shocked and perhaps well-amused.

The foundation of the book is an extremely interesting one. The story is built on a topic that raises its head every year or so in the news media as the result of a new discovery here and there. In turn, it reminds the world for a brief period what occurred before the topic once again becomes buried in the news cycle. I am being deliberately coy about what the subject matter is --- I am not about to ruin for the reader an intricate plot device that Kellerman obviously labored over, and to great effect --- but there is a wealth of information about it online that will serve to increase the reader’s enjoyment of the book.

Please set aside time for a research digestif after your reading of this outstanding novel, which stands so well on its own.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 7, 2020

The Museum of Desire: An Alex Delaware Novel
by Jonathan Kellerman