Since retired psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis first teamed up in 1985’s When the Bough Breaks, they have featured in 26 novels, Deception being the latest. The foundation for the series’s success is the relationship between the two, cemented by a solid mix of police procedural and psychoanalysis (two of my favorite mystery themes). Retired from practice, Alex is a private consultant who often assists the police in bizarre crimes. He has become a sounding-board, investigative colleague, and good friend to Milo Sturgis over the years. Their cynical repartee and gallows humor provide comic relief between bouts of suspect interrogation and following up on leads.
Delaware gets involved in Deception because a murder victim (discovered in a bathtub full of dry ice), an elite prep school tutor, has left behind a video implicating colleagues in sexual abuse and harassment. It’s college application time, and any negative publicity for the school could affect graduating students’ Ivy League aspirations. The police chief’s son being one of these students ties Sturgis’ hands considerably, and he and Alex are stonewalled at every turn in the investigation.
As usual, initial assumptions about suspects and motives turn out to be red herrings, and Alex and Milo slowly uncover the truth with a mixture of good old-fashioned police work and professional insight.
John Rubinstein narrates from the first-person perspective of Alex Delaware, and he expertly captures the personalities of these two very different characters and the essence of their relationship. Though I read the early novels in print, I’m looking forward to going back to the beginning and experiencing them in audio format.
If you like the psychotherapist-as-sleuth angle, you may enjoy Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series. This series also has in common with Kellerman’s the unlikely collusion and friendship between the main character and a law enforcement officer.