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by Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books, March 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 0345452615

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There's good news and bad news when it comes to Jonathan Kellerman's latest Alex Delaware novel. And seeing as I believe in the latter first, I can reveal, very grumpily, that Robin is back on the scene. As for the former, GONE is a return to some sort of form after a bumpy few novels.

I've always thought it a tad unfortunate that Mr and Mrs Kellerman are responsible for two of the most annoying characters in crime fiction -- although Robin is a distant second to the ever-so-perfect Rina in Faye Kellerman's series.

For those of you keeping up with the long-running series starring psychologist Alex and his police chum Milo Sturgis, you'll recall that Alex and girlfriend Robin split up several books back. Both have been keeping the bed warm with new partners, but neither has found anyone to last.

GONE is a quick and easy read, and I pretty much powered through it in one day. I was keen to know what happened, but constantly found myself frustrated by the two main characters who appear to have been backed into a corner. In these (generally) more tolerant days, would a good cop like Milo really be left to his own devices simply because of his sexuality?

The plot is fairly serviceable. Two would-be actors stage a stunt to gain attention. It backfires and one of them is later found dead and the other has disappeared. Police investigations (that is, Milo, accompanied by one inexperienced detective and Alex) centre on a strange family -- property developer Brad, his brother Billy, who has learning difficulties, and away with the fairies sister Norah, who runs the acting school to which the two young thesps belonged.

The main problem really is that the characters in this series aren't moving on at all. Alex drifts round after Milo and there's little of his private practice which has provided a fascinating strand to previous plots. Milo, who's consistently been the more interesting character of the two, eats like a horse, dresses badly, and is a good cop. Nothing new there, then.

I think Kellerman has to decide, as a matter of urgency, where Alex and Milo can go next. After book number 20 it might be time to explore other avenues. I still remember THE BUTCHER'S THEATRE, the standalone set in Israel, as one of the scariest books I've ever read. It seems sad that Kellerman really hasn't approached that sort of form again.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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