The Murderer's Daughter
Jonathan Kellerman
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The Murderer's Daughter
Jonathan Kellerman
528 pages
June 2016
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Sandie Kirkland's take on The Murderer's Daughter.

Kellerman tosses a new hat into the crime fiction ring with The Murderer's Daughter. Protagonist Grace Blades is a psychologist specializing in deeply traumatized patients, a kind of emotional surgeon excising their demons with intensive therapy. Grace has her own demons, of course, insight gleaned from the murder-suicide she witnessed as a child of five. Precipitously thrust into the world of foster care and caught in a revolving door of homes and circumstances, she learns to survive. There are some significant adults along the way: caseworker (and later attorney) Wayne Knutson; compassionate housemother Ramona Stage; and psychologist/professor Malcolm Bluestone and his wife, Sophie.

Bluestone, who believes Grace has a brilliant mind, enthusiastically tutors the youngster, testing her skills along the way and instrumental in preparing her for future academic success. Self-contained and rigorously observant, Blades flourishes under the care of these individuals, especially Malcolm and Sophie, carving out a secure niche for herself, a precise structure for one who has grown up in chaos. Her brief forays into risky behavior prove Graceís domination over every situation, albeit at a considerable emotional cost. Grace has chosen to live this way in the world, unwilling to concede control in her strictly-monitored environment. Everything is suddenly threatened by a new patient (a face from her past) who is murdered shortly after their first appointment. Now Graceís name is linked to that of the dead man, Andrew Toner, her well-defined world endangered by that association.

Kellermanís protagonist is as comfortable with the dark side of reality as the light, objectively cynical in her thorough preparation for defense in any situation, using her intelligence to plan strategy, familiarity with weapons complementing extensive self-defense techniques. Most importantly, she takes patient consideration of all aspects of a situation before taking action. In the early chapters, as much time is spent on Graceís past as the immediate threat after the murder of Andrew Toner--and the men who pursue her after Tonerís death. Bridging the journey from childhood to adult, Graceís character evolves, a woman both tough and empathetic, a potential killing machine tempered by personal experience. Blades alleviates her own trauma by helping her patients, but her (often self-congratulatory) brilliance and excessive need for self-protection limits her human interactions.

Unfortunately, Andrewís murder puts Grace in immediate danger. Determined to solve the case on her own--and avoid police interference--she looks to the past and an encounter with a young psychopath in foster care, now a wealthy man with the resources to shield himself from public scrutiny. Assessing his new persona and observing his daily activities, Grace prepares for an inevitable confrontation with her enemy, the epitome of evil. Much like Taylor Stevensí popular protagonist, Vanessa Michael Munroe, Grace navigates life with different parameters than others, an alternative reality that allows her to address the injustices she encounters and maintain a secure but solitary environment. Unlike Stevensí character, Grace Blades shares her life with no one, too smart, too wealthy, and too broken to truly embrace the world. The fictional Grace Blades may act as an avenger in future thrillers, a literate, near-genius skilled in self-defense and able to outsmart most adversaries, but Kellermanís protagonist is ultimately unappealing, limited to an action-hero caricature, brittle and unsympathetic, too proud of her scars and skills, humanity forfeit to security.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2015

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