I have read all of the books in Jonathan Kellerman’s long-running series featuring Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis. Alex is a psychologist, a consultant with the Los Angeles police department. His experience has been with children, both as victims of abuse and as abusers who victimize others. Milo is a lieutenant in the homicide division. The two have become close friends through all the years of looking at the worst human beings can do to each other.
“Something I need you to see, Alex. Here’s the address.” Vita Berlin is a woman in her fifties. Her neck has been broken and, post mortem, she has been eviscerated. Her body was found by her landlord so no difficulty in making an identification. But according to the landlord’s description of Vita as a person, the list of people with whom she had problems includes just about everyone she ever met. ” ‘Maybe she’s got some family who will mourn…but no one who has had anything to do with her is going to say thy miss her.'” Vita’s home was neat in the extreme; there was nothing to reveal her pe3rsonality. The only thing in her apartment of interest to the police is a pizza delivery box. There are twenty-eight independent pizza delivery businesses within easy distance of Vita’s apartment. Milo checked them all, including the chains. None used the boxes. Nothing on the outside of the box suggests that food had been in it. When it is dusted for prints and then unsealed, Milo and Alex find a piece of white paper taped to the bottom on it is a ?.
Marlon Quigg is victim #2. He is found on a wooded path frequently used by dog walkers. He is a successful accountant, happily married, the father of two daughters. He is killed in the same way as Vita Berlin. Gloria “got back down near the body, started rolling it. Stopped and reached under and drew something out. Piece of paper, folded into a packet, corners perfectly square. She photographed it closed, then spread a sterile cloth under it and spread it open. White, standard letter size. In the center, a simple message: ?
Three more bodies are discovered, all killed in the same way. There are no witnesses but as the police repeat interviews with people who were familiar with the victims, one detail emerges. The victims were stalked over the course of a few weeks before they were killed. A man wearing a hevy coat lined with shearling is described as being in each area. This is Los Angeles; most people don’t own a heavy coat. For lack of a name, the suspect is named for the only thing they know about, his coat. They have no idea who “Shearling” is.
The victims range from a medical doctor to a homeless man. They seem to have nothing in common. At first, the police feared the suspect was choosing his victims randomly but as the investigation moves on the police believe that he is working from a list. The only positive element of that conclusion is that they don;t have to consider the entire population of greater Los Angeles as potential victims. But knowing there is a list doesn’t get them closer to knowing who is on it.
VICTIMS is the twenty-seventh book in the Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis series. These are police procedurals and in this book Alex’s girlfriend, Robin, has a couple of small scenes. Milo’s partner, Rick, is only mentioned. This story belongs to Alex, Milo, and “Shearling”. Kellerman’s books may be described as formulaic but with Kellerman that isn’t a bad thing. In each book Alex deals with people who have been victimized when they were young and who carry the damage into the lives of others. Kellerman addresses one of the most tragic of society’s problems, the inability to protect the most vulnerable. Some of the author’s books have been on the New York Times Best Seller list. Kellerman has found a formula that always works.