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The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel


The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel

Over the years, the Alex Delaware series has acquired a special place in my mind and heart. Author Jonathan Kellerman recently began his fourth decade at the helm of this fine canon, and with the newly published THE WEDDING GUEST shows no signs of slowing down. The underlying story to which the reader is treated in each book never disappoints, but the permanent glue of the series is the professional relationship and personal friendship between consulting psychologist Delaware and LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis, which is firmly developed and solidly built.

THE WEDDING GUEST is a much more intriguing and multilayered tale than it might appear to be at first blush. The opening vignette is an interesting one, even for this reliably well-written, always compelling series. A wedding reception is being held at a venue that in previous incarnations was a strip club and a church, with palimpsest-like vestiges of both remaining if one looks hard enough. A member of the bridal party eschews a long line for the ladies’ room, and while skipping to a semi-hidden loo, she stumbles upon a dead body. The departed’s voluntary acquisition of room temperature has not occurred as a result of the excitement of the festivities but rather by murder most foul.

"As always, the mystery is the strong point of each volume of this consistently winning series, but the characters continue, even at this late date, to be better than ever."

Delaware is towed into the scene by Sturgis, and the investigation begins. The unconventional history of the venue is just the tip of the spear of the crime’s unusual elements. The strangest and ultimately most difficult problem the investigators face is that no one seems to know the identity of the victim, a young, attractive woman in her 20s. She is certainly dressed for the occasion but is not acquainted with either the bride or the groom.

While the mystery surrounding this homicidal demise is the book’s propelling factor, I will confess that my favorite parts are when Delaware and Sturgis apply the point of their investigative shovel to the mystery and begin revealing the layers of dirt below the polite veneers of the family members of the happy and hopeful couple, whose first day of wedded bliss is not exactly what they had in mind. One family is very pretentious and harboring a few interesting secrets, while the other is down to earth but also not entirely forthcoming.

It takes some quietly ingenious digging and a touch of modern information gathering for Delaware and Sturgis to determine the identity of the deceased, and from there to discover why she was at a wedding to which she was not invited and why someone would want her dead for her troubles. Delaware provides invaluable insight and deductions, demonstrating once again why Sturgis insists on bringing him in as a consultant and why the powers that be in the LAPD wink at the somewhat unconventional arrangement. Delaware also gets his hands a little dirty near the conclusion but manages to do so in a way that is wholly realistic and believable. It’s a great show all around.

Kellerman’s straight-on lampooning of contemporary culture and what passes for standards is the subtle weave through THE WEDDING GUEST that provides a bit of lagniappe for even the most jaded mystery reader. As always, the mystery is the strong point of each volume of this consistently winning series, but the characters continue, even at this late date, to be better than ever.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 12, 2019

The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel
by Jonathan Kellerman