Same old … with some twists

Bob Moyer’s travels have been a bit curtailed by the pandemic, but the silver lining is that he has more time to read books and to write reviews.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

MUSEUM OF DESIRE. By Jonathan Kellerman. Ballantine Books. 368 pages. $28.99.

Same old, same old.

After forty-some entries, Alex Delaware mysteries take on a predictable, albeit satisfying pattern. Lt. Milo Sturgis of the LAPD calls in psychologist Alex Delaware when he finds something awry about a case. They drive around, question suspects, head down narrative paths of misdirection, stop to eat, and slowly the solution unrolls before them.

The murders here, however, are not same old, same old. Someone has posed four strangers in gruesome, bizarre positions in a limousine. Milo and Alex stumble about for some time before they find a web of ancient pornography, lust, and Nazis that holds even more horrific murders.

Of course, most of the same old, same old is what Delaware fans return to find. Once again the much-ballyhooed (by me) banter between the two “boys” keeps a bit of light between dark moments. 

Very evident here as well is something not always mentioned. Kellerman is a noted child psychologist. Over the years, he has honed his listening skills, and translated the rhythm of dialogue and voice into his writing. An aging one-hit starlet in a Mcmansion, a blue-haired gallery owner with a lot to hide, her addicted brother who can’t hide anything, all have unique voices. Kellerman reveals that Delaware was an abused child who “…made my way from Missouri to L.A. at 16 (in order to) stop hiding from a drunken, raging father.” It’s part of a little-revealed past that explains why Alex has such a knack for dialogue with troubled children and colleagues. The child here is an autistic boy who is an important witness. Scenes between Alex and him are particularly poignant. Alex also speaks succinctly but with careful support to a traumatized officer on the case.

This latest installment has the full range we expect in a Delaware novel, from pain to poignancy. In other words—

Same old, same old.

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