Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #15: Blood Test by Jonathan Kellerman
Reading an Alex Delaware novel is usually like watching an episode of CSI. Predictable, pat, with the usual secondary characters, and the hero wins in the end. I think Kellerman may be running out of ideas, because this one went a little off the rails and into super-dramatic Lifetime movie territory.
Alex Delaware is a child psychologist, semi-retired after something seriously bad happened in a previous book (I don’t think I’ve read that one). He consults on difficult kid-related cases for friends and police. In Blood Test, an oncologist Alex used to work with calls for help with a young boy with cancer, whose parents want to refuse treatment. Alex agrees, but barely meets the family before they disappear, sneaking the boy out of his cancer-fighting plastic bubble. After finding a foreboding pool of blood in their hotel room, Alex calls in his friend Detective Milo Sturgis, and the search is on. Things quickly get weird. The suspect pool covers:
- A hippie doctor who dabbles in holistic medicine and diddling his patients
- A mysterious cult in a mysterious location outside a mysterious little town, led by a mysterious figure
- The parents, but not for long, since (SPOILER) their bodies are soon found in shallow graves in the California hills
- The little boy’s angry and oversexed older sister, who ended up working at an escort agency after being in town barely two days
There’s intrigue, there’s cultish mysteriosity, and I can’t tell you what really ratchets up the “Really? THAT’s where this has been leading?” factor without spoiling it. But it’s pretty soapy.
Alex himself is pretty dependable. He’s a likeable character when he’s not whining, and he and Milo always work well together. I think Kellerman confuses ‘setting the scene’ with ‘overdetailing everything you never wanted to know about what everyone’s wearing and eating,’ so some of the story drags. For example:
“I found Raoul in his lab, staring at a computer screen on which were displayed columns of polynomials atop a multicolored bar graph. He’d mutter in Spanish, examine a page of printout, then turn to the keyboard and rapidly type a new set of numbers. With each additional bit of datum the height of the bars in the graph changed. The lab was airless and filled with acrid fumes. High-tech doodads clicked and buzzed in the background. I pulled up a stool next to him, sat and said hello.”
Couldn’t that just have been “I found Raoul and said hello”? Yeesh.
Kellerman’s usually a safe bet, but this was definitely not one of my favorites. I think he tried too hard to shock his readers, and instead just made this one at least roll her eyes.