THE BUTCHER'S THEATER by Jonathan Kellerman

THE BUTCHER'S THEATER

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Kellerman's mysteries featuring psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware (When the Bough Breaks, etc.), though intelligently written and thickly textured with realistic illness/therapy detail, have been marred by slow pacing, overwrought effects, and disappointing windups. This new novel--a wildly overblown (640 pp.) police-vs.-psycho thriller set in Jerusalem--is even more of a mixed bag, with page-by-page strengths lavished on a humdrum formula production. A 15-year-old Arab girl is found murdered, gruesomely mutilated and bizarrely laid out, in a Mount Scopus ravine. So Inspector Daniel Sharavi--Yemenite Jew, scarred war-veteran, warm family man--assembles a special cop-team: acerbic old-pro Nahum; part-Chinese muscleman Yosef; Daoud, a bias-sensitive Arab; brash rookie Avi, a flashy ladies' man. And fairly soon the investigating cops are convinced that the girl, a runaway from an oppressive old-world family, was murdered by her shady boyfriend--who was in turn killed by the girl's vengeful, deformed brother. Then, however, a second woman--a Tripoli-born prostitute and drug-addict--is found dead in a forest, identically savaged, obviously victim #2 of a maniac serial-killer. (The reader has known this all along, thanks to periodic close-ups, lurid and shrill, of the nameless psycho.) A third victim is also young, female, Arab--leading to heightened ethnic tensions, which are exacerbated by an unscrupulous newsman. Sharavi, therefore, goes after both sex offenders and rabble-rousers: among the transparent red herrings are a Kahane-like rabbi/racist, an Hasidic child-molester, and a creepy monk. But, with help from the FBI, the Jerusalem cops eventually close in on the real psycho--who, true to genre-cliche (cf., among scores of others, Thomas Boyle's recent PostMortem Effects), snatches Sharavi's small daughter during the chase/showdown finale. Despite graphic swatches of psychosexual case-history, Kellerman's killer--a foulmouthed, masturbating amalgam of hatreds ("Don't move, kikefuck")--remains utterly unconvincing. The treatment of Israel's internal Arab/Jewish conflict, though timely, is annoyingly superficial; the assorted character-touches--like Sharavi's Yemenite back. ground--are intriguing yet ultimately disappointing, as it becomes clear that a thin, derivative scenario is being mechanically padded out to Big-Book dimensions. So, while there's enough solid professionalism here to fill a 300-page police-procedural, at more than double that length this sags and flattens--offering neither the focused, atmospheric suspense of Gorky Park and Pattern Crimes nor the chilling intensity of such other psychomanhunts as Red Dragon and Nightbloom.
Pub Date: March 22nd, 1988
ISBN: 0345460677
Page count: 746pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1988




MORE BY JONATHAN KELLERMAN

MysteryCRIME SCENE by Jonathan Kellerman
by Jonathan Kellerman
MysteryHEARTBREAK HOTEL by Jonathan Kellerman
by Jonathan Kellerman
MysteryTHE GOLEM OF PARIS by Jonathan Kellerman
by Jonathan Kellerman