Psychologist Alex Delaware gets tapped to help the police with a series of murders; his friend Milo the gay LAPD detective gets involved. So does a visiting Israeli cop, as one of the victims was the daughter of an Israeli diplomat.

I picked this up because it’s a mystery where the detective is a psychologist, and so is the author. It didn’t read differently from a book written by someone who’d just researched psychology, unfortunately. It’s set in LA, and I had the same feeling about that: there’s nothing inaccurate per se, but it’s not especially atmospheric and is somewhat cliched.

It’s clearly in the middle of the series, but I thought I could read them in any order. This turned out to be sort of true, but one of the characters, the Israeli cop, had a certain type of narrative weight that only occurs when they have been introduced very prominently somewhere else and have their own spin-off.

The book had good narrative drive, but became increasingly strange, melodramatic, and implausible as it went along. The plot turns on an evil MENSA club, of which the best I can say is that it’s at least marginally more plausible than the evil small press poets who were the villains of a non-comic novel I once read.

Delaware, who is happily married, goes undercover and is forced to pretend to flirt with an evil eugenicist sexpot. This is exactly as eye-rolly and slut-shaming as it sounds. And if a writer is going to go there at all, they need to make the hero make an actual choice between having sex or tanking the investigation. At the very least, Delaware needed to have a conversation with his wife about it. Instead, he tells her nothing, lets the Nazi slut molest him while alternately feeling self-righteously grossed out and guiltily turned on, and then, when he’s cornered by the slut-villain and seems about to finally have to make an actual choice, she is murdered by a third party. Psych!

As cop-outs go, this may be second only to the book in which the moustache-twirling sociopathic villain is confronted by the teenage pacifist hero. It looks like the latter will be forced to choose to compromise his principles and kill the villain, or keep his principles and let the villain kill his friends. But no! The villain conveniently decides to commit suicide by walking into the conveniently located ocean so the hero won’t have to dirty his hands.

Back to the Kellerman book, there is a lot of moralizing about how eugenics is wrong. Does anyone who is not a neo-Nazi think it’s not wrong? (I know, I’m sure many average people would be just fine with it. All the same, as a pressing current issue which needs a book to advocate against it, it’s an odd one to pick.) The subplot about the cop who sees such mind-destroying eeeeeeevil that he kills himself had similar issues-- the shocking reveal was that he'd had sex with exploited teenage prostitutes, which, yes, is very bad! But with the build-up it got, I was expecting him to have had sex with five-year-olds, then sacrificed them to Satan.

I am not sure I even understood exactly what happened at the climax, which was made even less coherent by Delaware being drugged and semi-conscious for it.

I was not impressed by this. Perhaps earlier installments are better? I was hoping for some actual psychology. I did like that there were gay cops and Jewish cops, but the book overall was so not good.

Survival of the Fittest: An Alex Delaware Novel
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)

From: [personal profile] sholio

Perhaps earlier installments are better?

.... not really. I think I made it through three or four of these; I read the first two, and then a couple later ones, and .... no. I liked the characters okay, in general concept (in particular that Milo, the gay cop, has a stable relationship throughout the books, while Alex's love life is usually a mess) but the plotting is completely incoherent and the characters have a habit of doing awful things and having the narrative gloss it over.
mildred_of_midgard: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mildred_of_midgard

The debate over eugenics has actually been getting some attention lately, in part thanks to controversial comments by Richard Dawkins. Here's an example:
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)

From: [personal profile] oursin

I was rather taken by the first novels in this series but there was definitely a point where they started going off, and I think this one was well past that point. But even in the earlier ones there's a certain amount of eeevil eugenicists. (Okay, as a historian who has worked on the topic I have Thoughts on the general subject, but these are pretty much irrelevant to anything that Kellerman is doing with the trope.)

Also, according to Kellerman, or at least, Alex Delaware, only bad people (even when they're not the villain) have kinky sex.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

I was rather taken by the first novels in this series but there was definitely a point where they started going off,

Yeah, where did you think it started going off the rails? I liked Time Bomb okay (first one of the series I read), Devil's Waltz and Bad Love weren't bad, the ones before were OK, and then with The Web it went allllllllll to shit. -- Wait, I think I did like The Murder Book, because that focused more on Milo. Milo's great. But the recent ones, with the one-word titles -- UGH.
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)

From: [personal profile] recessional

Much like hipster racism, it seems that it's been long enough since the actual Nazis and eugenicist regimes that some feel the topic is open to discussion among Reasonable, NonHysterical People again, because clearly they are so rational as to be untainted by the excesses of previous iterations and are considering it only for a thought exercise and/or the common human good.


I'll admit I am kind of charmed by the idea of an evil MENSA club, but suspect from the sound of this book that nobody at any point points out how ridiculous "evil MENSA club" sounds.
Edited Date: 2014-05-10 10:10 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

The earlier books are sort of workaday but fun, then they get pretty good, then there's a severe nosedive in quality and the series never recovers, like most crime series. One reason to read them is not the terrible main character Delaware, but his gay cop friend Milo, who sadly never gets his own books but really deserves them.
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)

From: [personal profile] vass

I read the first Alex and Milo book years and years ago, and wasn't gripped either. I liked Faye Kellerman better than her husband, although she's not a favourite either. Her detective hero's Jewish birth parents put him up for adoption, he was raised as Christian, and as a consequence of events in the first book (The Ritual Bath, set in a yeshiva) he starts investigating his Jewish identity in a very serious way. (Because this is by Faye Kellerman, this naturally leads him in an Orthodox direction.) I liked the combination of detective story and identity exploration.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

Oh I hadn't heard of that one! That sounds more interesting than anything John K ever did.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

Actually I just read this and it was quite good! I think she writes much better male characters than her husband does. Alex Delaware always seemed like the skin-crawlingly prototypical Nice Guy.

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