Book Review #68


Breakdown is a solid outing for Alex Delaware. It rewards expectations and will satisfy Kellerman fans. It has very little of Robin (a good thing), a little bit of Blanche (a good thing), some good moments with Milo and a focus on human psychology. I find that many of the strongest of the Delaware novels are those in which Alex actually gets to use his chops as a doctor and I like the realism that pervades these scenes. It’s not always clear what a patient is suffering from; nor is it clear that the patient can be helped or that the medications prescribed will contribute in any positive way. Medicine, including psychiatric medicine, is an art as much as a science. The story includes a great deal of procedural detail, which is always interesting.

The premise: Zelda Chase is a B-list actress in a cancelled television series. She is mentally ill. She becomes homeless and she turns up in the backyards of Bel Air, churning up the earth and crying about the loss of her mother. Years earlier, Alex treated her son, Ovid. When Zelda’s body is found Alex teams up with Milo to find her killer and to find her lost son. This takes him through the safety net/support systems of Los Angeles and affords us the opportunity to hear his insights on the relationship between homelessness and mental illness. Alex and Milo’s investigation culminates in a dark, out-of-the-past vision which reinforces the old observation that families are where we learn to love and where we learn to hate. Stir in big dollars and those lessons are magnified.

The principal plot arc is a linear investigation: talk to people, talk to other people, go back and talk to the same people, connect the dots, look into the abyss. The story includes (as noted above) some nice procedural elements and includes one of the patented, Jonathan Kellerman 50-page endings. I enjoyed the book very much, found the central story to be just a bit more complex and convoluted than usual (but not confusing or unintelligible). The story was obviously planned in great detail and the nature of the story (which I won’t spoil) was one which required a long list of dramatis personae.

Four and a half stars.