I’ve long been a fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware / Milo Sturgis series. However… after reading number 30 (Motive) recently I commented that I thought the characters were getting a bit stale. I found their lives to be less-interesting and I wondered if Kellerman was simply going through the motions.
So it was with great excitement I discovered the author was planning to release a new (stand-alone) novel, The Murderer’s Daughter.
The novel is again centred around a psychologist and this time it’s Grace Blades, a former-child prodigy who overcame a violent and troubled childhood. At 34yrs of age, Grace is relatively contented with her life as a psychologist, albeit with some interesting stress-relieving and risk-taking habits.
She’s about to go on holidays when we meet her and the last patient on her schedule is a new client and one who’d waited months to see her. Andrew Toner sought her out in light of a publication she’d written about the family members of murderers.
Toner is uncomfortable when he turns up for his appointment. He seemingly changes his mind about confiding in Grace part-way through the session and leaves abruptly.
It’s not until his body is found the next day Grace realises there was something familiar about him and traces him back to a brief encounter during her childhood. Realising he was killed to prevent him from talking, she knows her own life is in danger so goes on the offensive… requiring her to relive her own not-so-pleasant past.
Kellerman deftly alternates chapters between a young Grace and adult Grace. The segways introducing her childhood experiences are perfectly timed and readers are offered just enough information each time to understand the genesis of the tough and enigmatic adult Grace.
I very much enjoyed the backstories and they were really well written. I’m not sure why but I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of Kellerman’s storytelling, particularly as it related to Grace’s own parents. I found the childhood scenes gripping—possibly even more so than the murder mystery unfolding in the present.
Kellerman’s done a great job with Grace who’s smarter-than-smart and a survivor so we know she won’t go down without a fight.
I know other advance readers have pondered on whether this will become a series. I’d love to see more of Grace but am a tad unsure how Kellerman would deliver as complex and well-paced a book as this given the role the unfolding backstory plays. Although I guess, there’s still a lot we don’t know about Grace’s history.
If the story was to continue I think we’d need another key character… whether it be the detective we meet VERY briefly (possibly too briefly, but that’s a whole other side-note!) or the ageing former social worker-turned lawyer, Wayne. We’d need a little break from Grace and she (most certainly) could use a more prudent sidekick.
My verdict: A return to form!
The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman, published by Penguin Random House (US) will be released on 18 August 2015*.
I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
Note, this book will be released in Australia via Hachette on 25 August.