EVIDENCE, Jonathan Kellerman's latest book, is subtitled "An Alex Delaware Novel," but this branding is not quite accurate. Psychologist Delaware is certainly a presence throughout, and the first-person narration that tells the tale is in Delaware's voice. But the real focus of the novel is on LAPD Homicide Detective Milo Sturgis, who doggedly pursues a solution to a mysterious double homicide.
From the very beginning, there is nothing ordinary about EVIDENCE. The story commences with the discovery of two bodies in a half-finished house, which, even in its incomplete state, is a monument to ostentatiousness. The corpses are in carnal embrace, the man shot and the woman strangled. The identity of the female is unknown, but the male is Desmond E. Backer, a principal with a local architectural firm that has recently gone belly up. Backer, as it turns out, is quite the ladies' man, having dipped his pen in the company ink (among other places). Sturgis has no lack for suspects, as one of Backer's jealous lovers or one of their spouses possibly could have had the motivation to commit the dastardly deed. But the "who" isn't the only intriguing aspect of this case for Sturgis; he is also puzzled by the fact that the house where Backer and his ill-fortuned friend were found has sat unfinished for two years and that the identity of the owner seems to be a state secret.
With the always observant Delaware in tow, Sturgis begins making inquiries, slowly and methodically working his way through a labyrinth of connections that seem to lead to the rumored disappearance of another woman who no one seems to know. Sturgis is a determined investigator, but, as we learn through Delaware's intense and detailed narrative, the interrogation is where the detective really shines. In EVIDENCE, he does so on two occasions while following a trail that leads overseas and back, to a private air hanger, and, ultimately, all too close to home.
The plot and its two primary characters are more than enough reward for the time and money invested in experiencing Kellerman's latest work. However, the real star remains the city and environs of Los Angeles, which provides a never-ending wellspring for his stories. Kellerman introduces an important and unforgettable character, waiting until the last quarter of the novel to do so, and the gentleman almost steals the entire book in just a few paragraphs. And let's not forget the Los Angeles culinary experience in the Delaware/Sturgis series. Sturgis is a foodie of sorts; the tour of Los Angeles eateries continues here, making one ask the question: when might we look forward to the Milo Sturgis Dining Guide? Whether that volume ever comes into existence or not, there is much to love and enjoy in EVIDENCE, which satisfies and makes one yearn for more.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub