cover image The Butcher's Theater

The Butcher's Theater

Jonathan Kellerman, Jell. Bantam Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05251-0

In his fourth mystery, Kellerman leaves Los Angeles and Alex Delaware, child-psychologist hero of When the Bough Breaks and Blood Test, for the richness of Jerusalem and the subtle complexities of Chief Inspector Daniel Sharavi. The latter is a Yemenite Jew, a quiet and intense war hero with a California-born wife and three young children. When the extensively mutilated body of a young Arab girl is found, Sharavi assembles a group of assistants whose varied ethnic origins represent the composition of the city and state. After a second Arab girl is similarly killed, the case is given political significance in the press, leading to an Arab-Jewish riot and more bloodshed. As the investigation intensifies, Kellerman intersperses chapters that reveal the development of the killer's psychopathology, but not his identity. A third murder focuses Sharavi's attention on Amelia Catherine, the city's U.N.-run hospital, where finally he and the killer meet in a prolonged and graphic fight to the death. Dense with the textures of life in modern-day Jerusalem, Kellerman's story is both police proceduralit is dogged investigation, international and high-tech, that puts the last pieces in placeand penetrating psychological suspense-thriller. Panoramic in geography, layered in history, the novel is powered by close attention to the interior lives and motivations of its major characters, one of whom, a psychologist, may well be the author in guest appearance. This is a major novel, Kellerman's most ambitious and strongest to date. 100,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selections; author tour. (March)