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

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