Who’s my favorite mystery writer? Over the years, it’s been Jonathan Kellerman, without a doubt. It’s not often you have an actual practicing psychologist write best-selling murder mysteries!
As you might expect, I enjoy his books because of their emphasis on the psychological exploration of his characters. Kellerman’s expertise allows him to tease out and examine the sometimes mundane character traits that lead to unexpectedly vicious acts of murder.
I mainly read his novels centered on the character of Alex Delaware. Alex is a child psychologist who’s also a “consultant” to the LAPD. This leads him into the investigation of murders often related to clients he’s treated before.
He’s what’s called a “post-modern” detective. In other words, he’s more likely to be kind and empathetic than kick someone’s teeth in or pull a Colt .45 like the hard-boiled detectives in the Mike Hammer mode.
Alex is often invited into cases by his informal partner, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis of the LAPD. Sturgis is a great subversion of the “sidekick” tradition in the mystery genre. For one thing, he’s tough as nails, but he’s gay. For another, he’s one of the worst dressers and sloppiest eaters on the planet, another great undermining of the old cliché that all homosexuals are obsessed with clothes and fastidious behavior. Milo is nearly as empathetic as Alex. He cares deeply about victims and will work tirelessly to give them justice.
My favorite novel of Kellerman’s is A Cold Heart (2003). It’s a wonderful exploration of envy and jealousy coming from an unexpected source. I highly recommend it.