cover image Dead Air

Dead Air

Rochelle Krich / Author William Morrow & Company $23 (352p) IS

Like real-life radio star Dr. Laura Schlessinger, L.A. talk-show psychologist ""Dr. Renee"" Altman is well known to listeners for her tough approach to questions of personal morality and family values. Renee calls her childhood friend, LAPD homicide detective Jessie Drake (last seen in Blood Money), when she fears that she's being stalked. Renee has been reluctant to tell anyone about her separation from her husband, since she frequently rails against the evils of divorce on her radio show. Then Renee's only child is kidnapped, her housekeeper is murdered and her affluent, somewhat complacent world is turned upside down. Is her ex-husband the killer/kidnapper, or is there someone else after her? This isn't Krich's most accomplished novel. Jessie is nearly the only sympathetic character here, and the secondary player, tend to be little more than stock thriller personalities or caricatures of celebrities. (A competing talk-show host is modeled on shock-jock Howard Stern.) It would have been nice to hear more about Jessie's spiritual quest following her recently discovered family heritage of Orthodox Judaism, but this thread is kept in the background, while a child-in-jeopardy plot plays itself out. Krich delivers some real suspense but, given her excellent track record, this novel counts as a disappointment. (Mar.)