Reviews for Unnatural history

Publishers Weekly
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Edgar winner Kellerman’s enjoyable 38th Alex Delaware mystery (after 2022’s City of the Dead) opens at a crime scene: the studio-cum-apartment of photographer Donny Klement, youngest son of elusive multibillionaire Victor Klement. At the time of his death, Donny was putting together a project called the Wishers, for which he had been photographing homeless people, whom he interviewed and then dressed in costumes that aligned with their dream selves, such as those of movie goddesses, Top Gun pilots, intrepid explorers, and ballerinas. Had it been one of these troubled souls who shot Donny in his bed and left him to bleed out? Or does the motive for his death lie in the greed and expectations of the dysfunctional Klement family? Alex, a child psychologist and consultant for the LAPD, and Det. Milo Sturgis discover several suspects with plausible motives, though the solution comes as a bit of a letdown. As usual, the main draw is not the action but the personal relationships. Kellerman, a trained psychologist, brings authenticity to his thoughtful protagonist, as well as a genuine touch of humanity to Alex’s friendship with Milo. This long-running series is still going strong. (Feb.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

A noted (but not universally liked) photographer is murdered. Did someone connected with his recent project bear him a grudge? Or is there a secret buried deep in the history of the victim’s rather eccentric family? Forensic psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis soon learn that there won’t be any easy answers, as the mystery only deepens the more they dig into the victim’s life. In addition, the photographer's latest project—images of homeless people in costumes reflecting their fantasies—has prompted considerable controversy. Kellerman introduced Delaware and Sturgis in 1985’s Edgar-winning When the Bough Breaks, and their long-running partnership—this is the thirty-eighth installment—has produced a series of strong crime novels. Kellerman, a psychologist himself, displays a deep awareness of what goes on inside the human mind; his stories are complex, and his characters are vividly drawn. Series fans will be eager to read this one.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Once again, best friends Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis tackle a strange murder together. A woman discovers her boyfriend, billionaire’s son Donny Klement, lying in bed with three bullet holes in his chest. Det. Milo Sturgis asks psychologist Alex Delaware to work with him for the psychological insights he can bring to this oddball murder. The vic was about to give a one-man show of his photography, a project he’d called the Wishers: He dressed up homeless people as the successes they wished they were, photographed them, paid them $500 each, and let them go back to their lives on the street. Donny had felt that homelessness created unnatural histories, and he wanted to show what his subjects’ lives might have been like if they'd been luckier. But how did the homeless people react to the whole experience? Did someone return to whack him? “The Wishers project itself—bringing strangers with troubled histories into his home—seemed potentially explosive,” Delaware muses. And the vic’s family is strange: Rich dad Viktor’s M.O. in life is to marry a beautiful woman, impregnate her, then leave her. He’s done it six times, creating a batch of loosely connected half siblings: “technically a family, but really a collection of strangers.” (Donny isn’t a nickname for Donald, by the way, but for Adonis.) More murders follow in this complicated and unusual plot, and the characters and clever lines make the story fun. Milo is a smart cop who believes that “stupidity is the fertile soil [he] farm[s],” and the big guy sure loves to eat. A woman backs away from him, “as if there was only so much space to go around and he’d just taken a second helping.” And Delaware doesn’t think much of his friend’s taste in ringtones: “As we waited, Milo’s phone played something that could have been extracted from Chopin’s nightmare.” Kellerman’s legion of fans will eat this up like his detective eats bear claws. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.