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City of the Dead–homicides in L.A.

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City of the Dead

by Jonathan Kellerman

City of the Dead is the first Jonathan Kellerman mystery for me, but it is certainly not his first suspenseful book. In fact, it is the thirty-seventh book that features Alex Delaware, a psychologist who is frequently called on by the police to make sense out of crimes and uncover the perpetrator. Although I might have enjoyed the book more if I had read others in the series, I had no problem following this tough as nails plot. It begins with a double homicide when a truck collides with a nude young man and a barely noticeable trail of blood leads to a nearby house where another body is found. Alex is called in to consult. He does not interact much in interviews, but the police rely heavily on his instincts and perceptions based on his observations of those interviews.

While aiding in this case, he is working on a separate case in his professional practice. He interviews the members of divorcing couples to advise the family court judge of his custody recommendations. This time the child is a three year old girl. The mother hails from a wealthy background, and the father is a professor with Ivy League credentials who jumps from job to job. His specialty, besides the study of symbolism, seems to be disparaging his wife because she is not an academic.

Alex Delaware is an interesting character—highly intelligent, a keen observer, and compassionate in a professional way. He interacts well with the police officers he works with; they sometimes need his help and counsel personally and professionally. His own support system is his partner Robin who restores and repairs musical instruments. They both have offices and work spaces at home which involves them in each other’s work at least minimally.

Pieces of this puzzle gradually come together, especially as more DNA evidence emerges. The tricky part is knowing whom to get that evidence from and where to look for it. The joint, noncompetitive efforts of the police and Alex pull out some interesting clues. In the end, the killer is a surprise as the last pieces of the puzzle are put together. If you like a mystery that is a little tougher and more suspenseful than a cozy mystery, you’ll probably like this one.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Ballantine Books (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: 1. #37 in the Alex Delaware Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. Contains descriptions of the results of violent acts and some objectionable language.

Publication: February 8, 2022—Ballantine Books (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

But when I embark on a custody consult, optimism falls by the wayside and I assume everyone’s going to lie to me.

The practice of family law—of law, in general—has nothing to do with truth and everything to do with brinkmanship and illusion.

Humans are programmed to detest uncertainty, and nothing ruins a detective’s life more than too many question marks.


  1. Right on Linda. I have read all of them, the price of the ebook is only the reason, I haven’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WendyW says:

    I have not read a Jonathan Kellerman book yet. Your review is so good! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gretchen says:

    Jonathan Kellerman is an author I have not read. This sounds like something I would enjoy. I appreciate your notes about content and language.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nancy says:

    I have not read this author. But your review entices me. Thank you. I always enjoy your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have read Jonathan Kellerman, he is a talented writer, but a little graphic for me…this does sound intriguing though!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carla says:

    I have read 20 of the books in this series, but they started to get a bit too graphic and too predictable, but I read the last one and enjoyed it. I think I will try this one as well. Nice review, Linda. I like that the killer was a surprise, if I figure it out, it was too easy. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      If you read 20, that says a lot for this author. It certainly won’t be accused of being a cozy mystery. Fortunately I was expecting something with more edge to it. It won’t be my constant fare, but it is a good book.

      Liked by 1 person

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