Jonathan Kellerman is a master at creating psychologically nuanced novels of suspensean author whose name is synonymous with unrelenting action, intriguing plot twists, and penetrating insight into the criminal mind. Now he ventures into bold, new territory with his biggest and best novel yet. A Cold Heart features Kellerman's brilliant signature stylebut in this tour-de-force he mines even deeper the emotional landscape of his characters: psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, Milo's colleague Petra Connor, and Alex's ex-lover, Robin Castagnabringing them all vividly to life as never before.
"I've got a weird one, so naturally I thought of you," says Milo Sturgis, summoning his friend Alex to the trendy gallery where a promising young artist has been brutally garroted on the night of her first major showing. What makes it "a weird one" is the lack of any obvious motive, and the luridly careful staging of the murder scenewhich immediately suggests to Alex not an impulsive crime of passion . . . but the meticulous and taunting modus operandi of a serial killer.
Delaware's suspicion is borne out when he compares notes with Milo's associate, Petra Connor, and her new partner, a strange, taciturn detective with a past of his own named Eric Stahl. The Hollywood cops are investigating the vicious death of Baby Boy Lee, a noted blues guitarist, fatally stabbed after a late-night set at a local club. What links Baby Boy's murder with that of painter Juliet Kipper is the shadowy presence of an abrasive fanzine writer. This alias-shrouded critic's love-the-art/disdain-the-artist philosophy and his morbid fascination with the murders leads Alex and the detectives to suspect they're facing a new breed of celebrity stalker: one with a fetish for snuffing out rising stars.
Tracking down the killer proves to be maddening, with the twisting trail leading from halfway houses to palatial mansions and from a college campus to the last place Alex ever expected: the doorstep of his ex-lover Robin Castagna, whose business association with two of the victims casts her as an unavoidable player in the unfolding case. As more and more killings are discovered, unraveling the maddening puzzle assumes a chilling new importancestopping a vicious psychopath who's made cold-blood murder his chosen art form.
The witness remembers it like this:
Shortly after 2 a.m., Baby Boy Lee exits the Snake Pit through the rear alley fire door. The light fixture above the door is set up for two bulbs, but one is missing, and the illumination that trickles down onto the garbage-flecked asphalt is feeble and oblique, casting a grimy mustard-colored disc, perhaps three feet in diameter. Whether or not the missing bulb is intentional will remain conjecture.
It is Baby Boy's second and final break of the evening. His contract with the club calls for a pair of one-hour sets. Lee and the band have run over their first set by twenty-two minutes, because of Baby Boy's extended guitar and harmonica solos. The audience, a nearly full house of 124, is thrilled. The Pit is a far cry from the venues Baby Boy played in his heyday, but he appears to be happy, too.
It has been a while since Baby Boy has taken the stage anywhere and played coherent blues. Audience members questioned later are unanimous: ...
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With consummate skill, Ruth Rendell pulls the colorful strands of this harrowing story ever tighter, increasing the tension page by page.
The suspense is breathtaking, the outcome never certain. A series that has garnered no end of awards -- the Edgar, the Shamus, the Philip Marlowe, the Maltese Falcon -- has ascended to a dizzying new height.
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