cover image Monster


Jonathan Kellerman. Random House Inc, $25.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-679-45960-6

In top form in his latest mystery featuring L.A. forensic psychologist Alex Delaware (who had a bit part in the author's previous novel, Billy Straight), Kellerman devises a deviously twisted, contemporary tale that draws pulsing suspense from the ageless relationship between madness and evil. Delaware teams up with his pal Milo Sturgis, of LAPD Homicide, to track the murderer of Claire Argent, a young doctor who worked at Starkweather Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Argent's badly mutilated body connects her death to the unsolved murder of a young, aspiring actor whose body had been sawed in half. Kellerman masterfully strews the trail of the investigation with crumbs, challenging his heroes (and readers) to distinguish promising clues from red herrings. Argent, who recently left a prime research job to work at Starkweather, led an extremely isolated life that had nothing in common with that of the murdered actor. The Starkweather staff is reticent and unhelpful until a young aide reveals that the doctor had been spending time with an inmate known as the Monster, a mentally deficient man who had been convicted of murdering and mutilating a young family 15 years earlier. Kellerman focuses on Delaware and Sturgis as they probe the hospital's milieu, the Monster's crime, the doctor's troubled and puzzling history and additional murders. A tense climax in the hills above L.A. brings together all the tautly woven threads as Kellerman delivers another chilling look into the dark corners of the human psyche. Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild main selections. (Dec.)