It’s the twentieth time around for Jonathan Kellerman’s psychologist-cum-private detective Alex Delaware, and the old boy’s beginning to look (and sound) a little long in the tooth. Delaware is called in by old friend Milo Sturgis of the LAPD Robbery/Homicide Division when one of Delaware’s former clients is found murdered and left naked on a canyon hillside. Delaware is battling his own demons, as his most recent girlfriend, fellow therapist Allison, who was scared off in the previous title (“Rage”), is still stand-offish. Meanwhile, previous girlfriend and guitar-maker Robin has re-entered the scene, and seems to want something like reconciliation.
The mystery itself is practically non-existent. As in a great many Alex Delaware tales, the villain is apparent the moment he/she is introduced, and the reader has to trudge through almost three hundred tedious pages to see him/her (no spoilers here, guys) brought to justice. While we wait, we are subjected to Delaware’s increasingly irritable musings, Milo Sturgis’s tired ramblings, and a general sense of relief when the whole mess is resolved.
Kellerman’s series started off with a bang in 1985’s ‘When The Bough Breaks’, which was made into a reasonably tolerable movie starring Ted Danson as Delaware and Richard Masur as Milo. About six books ago, we started to get a peek into Delaware’s inner conflicts, based on his relatively unhappy childhood, and began to recognize why he became a child psychologist in the first place. In the last four books, however, revelation has given way to scenery-chewing, and Delaware has become tiresome. How sad.
It seems that, under the pressure from his publisher to squeeze out a new book every nine months, Kellerman has resorted to phoning them in. One constant in ‘Gone’ is Kellerman’s apparent inability to stop writing when the story is over. Long after the villain is uncovered, he just keeps writing, piling on one irrelevancy after another, seemingly to stretch the book to the magic 400 pages (including front and back matter) so often required by marketing departments. Take it from me. You can stop reading when the story is over.
Kellerman has been much more spontaneous and entertaining of late with his spin-off Petra Connor series. Perhaps it’s time to send Alex Delaware and his fatigued sidekick Milo Sturgis on a well-deserved lengthy vacation, and focus on the Connor series for three or four books. This, of course, won’t happen. Ballantine Books knows a marquee author when they see it, and they know that people will buy Alex Delaware novels for as long as Kellerman wishes to keep cranking them out. It’s a shame, really. If you are looking for something fresh in the Alex Delaware vein, you might want to check out G.H. Ephron’s ‘Peter Zak’ series (‘Delusion’, ‘Addiction’, ‘Guilt’, ‘Obsessed’, and ‘Amnesia’). While I often forget for a moment when reading Ephron that this isn’t Dr. Delaware and company, the writing overall is tighter, and the endings infinitely more riveting and compelling.
1 out of 4 Stars
Reviewed By: Rick Helms, Counseling and Advisement