Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are back in Motive, Jonathan Kellerman's latest in the Delaware series.
This new story opens with Milo stymied over a murder investigation that's run straight into a wall.
While commiserating with Delaware over the unsolved death a woman is found shot to death in a parking lot. The pair check out the scene of the puzzling death but clues are in short supply. Sturgis and Delaware investigate, pursuing their mutual suspicions but the new case also goes cold, frustrating the pair.
Ready to move on despite their frustration, a weird piece of evidence surfaces in the second corpse's home, seeming to link the two cold cases. As they pursue leads the dead bodies continue to pile up and the connections between the stiff's leads the pair of investigators to pursue a serial killer. They focus on a couple of suspects with Delaware making logical, psychopathic explanations that make a case against each suspect. When one of their main suspects ends up dead, Delaware and Sturgis figure out who the serial killer was and how he was related to the others.
Motive is set mainly in Los Angeles proper and the setting is sometimes brought to life, such as the hills of LA and weird CD store but but other times it is just a backdrop. The clever plot unfolds as strings of evidence pointing each suspect are made, broken, re-weaved and strengthened, leaving the reader to bounce from target to target for the perpetrator. As readers of the Delaware series are aware, Kellerman reinforces a reader's guessing game with the banter between Alex and Milo. Its moves the story along and misdirects the reader with their plausible rationalizations of scenarios.
Kellerman really knows how to develop a line of questions to probe into a crime and his dialogue is simply stellar in Motive. I liked the way Kellerman uses his skilful character development to demonizing a suspect for a period and then yanks them back to being sympathetic. Deeper descriptions of persons and places ensure that Kellerman's stories are character driven and are able drag the reader into the setting and its world; not merely a plot driven shallow shell. As any writer who has taken a first course in writing or has ever had an editor knows, visceral detail is what distinguishes a real writer from the slush pile. I did enjoy the read; it was fast paced and entertaining.
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Reviewed for MCT by Dan Petrosini.