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Sunday, February 19, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Ah, it's great to welcome an old friend to my Kindle again. Actually, make that two old friends; after all these years (and something like 30-plus books), I've come to know both child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and Los Angeles Police Department detective Milo Sturgis pretty doggone well. Not nearly as well as they know each other, though; Alex is a fairly frequent consultant to the LAPD, mostly with cases Milo is honchoing - and they're now at the point at which meaningful conversation happens with just a shrug of a shoulder or lift of an eyebrow.

It's Alex who gets the ball rolling here. He gets an out-of-the-blue call from Thalia Mars, who says she's 99 years old and wants a consultation. No, she says, she's not concerned that his work is primarily with patients decades younger. A bit reluctant but intrigued, Alex agrees to meet her at her long-time home, a stand-alone cabin at a luxury hotel complex. She seems totally lucid and more than willing to part with a substantial retainer, but the questions she asks deal more with criminal behavior than her personal life. Promising to provide Alex with more details at the next visit, they agree on a follow-up visit the next morning.

But alas, it never happens. When Alex shows up, he finds an extremely upset housekeeper who found the nonagenerian lying in her bed quite dead. Nothing appears to have been stolen, and at first blush, it appears she may have died of natural causes. But further examination of the body tells another story - murder - and Milo is called in. 

The case goes nowhere fast; the old lady has no apparent heirs nor apparent enemies, and her considerable estate is being left entirely to charity. So who on earth would want to kill a woman who most likely wouldn't make it past another year or two at most? Clues lead all over the map - literally - as well as to long-closed cases and ages-old relationships that may or may not be connected. Finding out the truth, then, will put the investigative skills of Milo and Alex to the test.

Quite honestly, I enjoyed this one even more than the last two or three books. I will say, though, that while this one stands alone, there's not much background explanation on the characters - and I'm sure at least part of my enjoyment comes from being privvy to that. So if you've never read any of the books in this series before, you might want to go back a half-dozen or so to start. Hey, I'll bet you'll make a couple of friends you'll look forward to reading about, too.

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, February 2017); 368 pp.

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