Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
Publication date: 11 October 2012
Length: 374 pages
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
Not since Jack the Ripper has there been such a gruesome crime scene. One look at the victim’s apartment turned charnel house is enough for Milo Sturgis to summon The Crime Reader. But even Alex Delaware’s skills may be stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion…with no apparent connection between them. The only clue left behind – a blank page bearing a question mark – seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges. This one will haunt The Crime Reader’s waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.
Jonathan Kellerman is one of those authors whose work I keep seeing every time I go into a bookshop and whose books I’ve wanted to pick up for a very long time. Being an avid reader of crime fiction – and fast paced thrillers in particular – I felt they would be something I’d enjoy but somehow I never got around to actually picking them up. When Victims landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get started.
There are currently 29 books in the series featuring The Crime Reader, that is, forensic psychologist Alex Delaware, out of which Victims is the 27th. As much as I was looking forward to reading the book, a small part of me was worried whether I’d miss anything by not being familiar with the previous 26 books. With long series like this, authors often cut to the chase and don’t go into details about their characters, their past, their personalities, leaving you to figure out the relationships between them and everything else yourself. Which is understandable. If you’ve read 26 books with the same couple of characters, you probably know all about them. But, being a newbie to Alex’s world, I was a tiny bit worried.
Well, I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t for one second feel as if I was missing something. A few chapters in I felt as if I’ve known Alex and his friend and work partner, Milo Sturgis, for a long time. In fact, their dialogues and their chemistry is one of the things I think makes this book as good as it is. But characters alone don’t make an excellent book – you need a killer plot and compelling writing as well. Kellerman’s Victims ticks all these boxes. His writing draws you in at the very beginning and you won’t be able to put the book down or stop guessing right until the very end.
Both his style and his two main characters reminded me of one of my favourite writer, Chris Carter’s novels. Similarly to Carter’s stories, Kellerman’s killer is very methodical, very precise and careful not to leave any clues behind. He doesn’t do mistakes. He’s teasing the police with blank pages bearing question marks left behind at each murder scene and they know they’d get away with it. But what made this particular story even more unputdownable is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to these murders, or an obvious connection between the victims. Is it just a cruel game, someone killing people randomly? And if not, what is the police (and us readers) missing?
I absolutely loved Kellerman’s writing, all the twists and turns in the story and his ability to keep you reading until way past your bedtime. The only thing I would have done differently is the last chapter and the way things are wrapped up. I would have loved to know how the killer got away with things for such a long time or what went on inside of his/her head. I personally would have liked some more details but I still loved the book.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most twisted, most unputdownable thrillers I’ve read so far, and quite possibly one of my favourite crime novels of the year. If you haven’t ventured into the world of Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis, I would highly recommend it. It’s a brilliant book by a fantastically talented author whose books are going to the top of my wish list.