Self-Defence

by Jonathan Kellerman

 

Reviewed by Coral


The overall premise of the Alex Delaware series has always been a little thin - what kind of cop continually needs his therapist buddy to help him solve crimes, to the extent where Alex is coaching him on how to question suspects? - but several of the books have been enjoyable.

This is one of them.

This time round Alex is counseling Lucy Lowell, a juror on the now-finished Shwandt trial. The horrific nature of the crimes and the utter depravity she witnesses in Shwandt have taken a toll on her. Now she's being plagued by nightmares that may be repressed memories of her childhood. She reaches out to Milo, one of the officers who testified against Shwandt, and he sends her to Alex - a more plausible plotline. She, Alex and Milo begin digging around a past she can't remember trying to unlock a decades old mystery.

I found this part of the book compelling, though it does get bogged down with a copycat Shwandt killing that, ultimately, has nothing to do with anything.

I had some issues with the subplot: the completely ridiculous adventures of Alex and Robin in home-building. Their contractor drywalls over the unfinished electrical so the electrician needs to tear it down to finish his job. Their plumber wrecks their floor. Someone's equipment breaks their sewer line and demands more money to fix it. Taking a page from Mike Holmes, "Red flag. Red flag. How many red flags do you need before you tell this guy to get the hell out of your house."

Kellerman isn't as crazy with the descriptions this time, which is good, though he still fills his pages with racism. Now I know you have to differentiate between a character who is racist and the author, but it's hard to cut Kellerman slack sometimes when it seems to be an over-arching theme of his books. He wants to write Lucy's father as a racist, fine. It's done believably, the man is an ass. But it's these little comments that he doesn't even seem to think are bigoted that are everywhere in his books. An example from this one: assuming the illness that killed a man was AIDS just because the man was gay. Or, conversely, assuming a man was gay just because he had AIDS. Stereotypes are harmful, and it's just odd that he would conform so rigidly to these, yet goes out of his way to avoid every stereotype when it comes to writing for Milo and can successfully write Milo as a sympathetic and compelling character.

 

Grade: B