A serial killer eludes a cop and a psychiatrist.
Even LAPD homicide consultant Alex Delaware, a child psychiatrist who labors hard not to be judgmental, is nauseated by the gory handiwork confronting his good friend Detective Milo Sturgis: a corpse with her guts strung about her like a necklace. And she’s only the first victim. There will be five in all, seemingly with nothing in common except their killer’s obsessive mayhem and the paper adorned with a large question mark slipped beside their bodies. Much theorizing by Alex and much legwork by Milo determine that the killer and his victims may first have collided at the now defunct Ventura State Hospital, where the mentally unbalanced were incarcerated and the most untreatable of the lot consigned to the Specialized Care Unit. But privacy issues prevent them from examining old patient files, and psychiatrists who could offer information waffle. As the bodies pile up, Milo loses favor with his bosses and Alex has to wonder if he’s misread some interviewee’s remarks. Slowly, the men arrive at the same conclusion: the serial killer has a partner. Is one the mentor and the other the mentee? Did they bond at Ventura and begin their killing years later, after the closing of the hospital made revenge (for what?) possible? Clearly, an unraveling of the havoc will require a return to the Ventura site, with lingering aftereffects for both Alex and Milo.
Fans of this long-running series (Mystery, 2011, etc.) will get exactly what they’ve come to expect: a thoughtful Alex, a mildly sarcastic Milo and a well-constructed plot, although here the final sequences seem more in keeping with TV melodrama than Kellerman’s usual product.