I’ve been reading Faye’s husband, Jonathan Kellerman, for years, and I’ve just gotten around to picking up one of Faye Kellerman’s Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series. I love the idea of a mystery-writing couple!
Burnt House is a relatively recent entry in the series (2007; #16), so characters and relationships are quite established by this point. LAPD Lieutenant Peter Decker presides over a baffling case: after a commuter plane crashes into an apartment building in L.A., questions arise about a flight attendant who was listed among the victims. Her parents are certain their daughter was not on the plane, but they’re equally certain that she is dead nonetheless– at the hands of her greedy, philandering husband. Though it sounds like a crackpot theory, Decker has a feeling about it, and when Roseanne Dresden’s body fails to turn up in the wreckage he becomes more convinced that her parents are right and sets his team of detectives to work. The case becomes even more convoluted when an extra body shows up at the crash site. Roseanne is the only person unaccounted for, but the body is not hers. Now Decker has two corpses and two unsolved cases.
Faye’s writing style is quite different from her husband’s– not quite as dark or nuanced; less introspection and character development; but very strong on police procedural. Kellerman takes the reader into the inner workings of a police case– examining forensic evidence, sifting through phone records and bank statements, interviewing witnesses, following up leads. Characters’ inner lives and personal issues take a back seat to the details of the police investigation. This, plus fast-paced suspense, are the main appeal factors.
Peter and his wife Rina are Jewish with a blended family, and Jewish culture and family anecdotes are woven throughout the story, though the plot always takes center stage. Since this is the 16th entry in the series, I suspect that earlier books in the series will provide quite a bit of back story here in terms of their faith and family relationships. I’m looking forward to going back to #1 in the series, The Ritual Bath (1987), in which Peter and Rina meet and Peter rediscovers his faith.
Check the WRL Catalog for The Burnt House