Kellerman is reliable and consistent in his Alex Delaware novels. The partnership pf LAPD Homicide detective Milo Sturgis and child psychologist Alex Delaware is a familiar team, a blend of the physical and emotional faces of crime. But the latest murder that draws the seasoned men to a gruesome crime scene is only the beginning of a nightmare far beyond their expectations. The first victim is a middle-aged single woman of large girth and notably nasty temperament, her neck broken, intestines surgically removed, the corpse the only anomaly in a pristine crime scene.
Unfortunately, there is no tangible information forthcoming from the crime scene or as a result of thoroughly canvassing of the neighborhood. A second murder follows soon after the first, equally as violent and graphic and yielding similar results—no clues and no suspects. It isn’t until the third outrageous and unprovoked killing—that of a man and his wife in a carefully staged tableau—that Sturgis and Delaware learn of a stranger who may have been seen near each murder site, a man so nondescript that artist renderings are virtually worthless.
Refusing to concede defeat and with Sturgis under considerable pressure to perform, the men pursue the most obscure details of the victim’s disparate lives. They discover a tiny thread of possible connection, one that leads to the darkest of places and a history long-buried in a city outgrowing its past in a rush to the future. From LA to Ventura, Sturgis follows a trail—more by intuition than logic—to a long-defunct mental institution. Sturgis and Delaware gradually construct a bizarre scenario of revenge and madness, a sort of noir horror story begun many years before and buried in the bureaucratic morass of the state mental health industry.
Though nothing is predictable about this story, it is all too possible in a world inundated by progress and awash in corporate greed and malfeasance. Out of bureaucratic red tape and pre-technology chaos, Kellerman has crafted a real nightmare of mutilation and murder. This landscape is strewn with the bloody entrails of dead bodies as though a madman has broken free of the past to strike terror in a world accustomed to drive-by shootings and war, but not the grotesque canvas of a cadaver flayed with surgical precision. Beyond the unknowable terrain of a killer’s mind, this case presents horror-soaked images that sting the imagination long after the dead are buried, a monster’s masterpiece.