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California Dreaming

Hangman: A Decker/Lazarus Novel by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow; $25.99; 422 pages)

The Kellerman family crime drama franchise is alive and well.   In this case, Faye Kellerman’s devoted couple Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus are once-again faced with decisions regarding family and duty.   After 24 years of Decker and Lazarus stories, this book feels more like getting caught up on news with old friends than a gory murder mystery.   Maybe that’s because Ms. Kellerman’s side of the house focuses on family values, the power of faith and genuine caring, regardless of whether someone is actually kin.

The requisite murder is by hanging, or so it would appear, and the list of suspects is just long enough to create confusion for the investigators.   Of course there is the usual second plot line with a personal twist involving Peter’s willingness to help others, even if it means putting everyone around him in danger.   The other bad guy is a character he encountered many years ago on the job as a member of L.A.’s finest.  

Gabe, the 14-year-old piano prodigy son of the exonerated murder turned hit man, is the one in need of protection to keep him from becoming collateral damage from the angry interaction of his parents.   Gabe and his mom have fled the east coast for California and the masterly assistance of Peter Decker.

Fortunately for Gabe, who needs to keep up his piano practicing, Rina Lazarus is well-connected with the doctor of a world-famous pianist associated with the University of Southern California (USC) and, well, you can fill in the blanks.   As a member of the USC Trojan family by marriage, this reviewer is always happy to encounter the usual reference to the university in the Kellerman novels, whether it’s Jonathan or Faye who is telling the story.

The take-away from this episode is that family counts and the choices that need to be made are farther reaching than planning vacations or having fun.   A loving community, whether as small as a family or as large as a school, accepts others and is inclusive – very simple but very hard to put into practice.

Recommended, though there are no huge surprises here which is just what a Kellerman reader expects.   This one is like returning to a warm, comfortable bed on a cold Winter’s day.  

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.   Note:  Although they generally write separately, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman have written two novels together (Capital Crimes, Double Homicide) and one Young-Adult novel with their daughter Aliza (Prism).

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Flipping Out

Flipping Out: A Lomax and Biggs Mystery

by Marshall Karp

Flipping houses takes on a whole new meaning in this, the third Lomax and Biggs mystery from Marshall Karp (Cut, Paste, Kill; The Rabbit Factory).   Karp is a playwright and screen writer who makes good use of his background.   The Flipping Out plot centers on several poker-playing Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives, their spouses and a mystery writer with more nerve than a bad tooth.   This is a wild and crazy tale comprised of standup comedy lines and relationship banter set inside the Home and Garden TV premise that a profit can be made from fixing up houses and selling them quickly.   Real world flipping activities have been seriously curtailed by the current economic slump but this is not – fortunately for the reader – the real world.

The spin on the basic concept employed by the mystery writer, who happens to be the mother-in-law of one of the detectives, gets around the real estate slump by adding an only in LA feature.   The house being flipped is the setting of a murder – in one of her novels!   The open house staging is complete with an outline of the body, crime scene tape and a story-board in each room describing the action in the book.

Although the body count adds up quickly, there’s nothing at all scary about Flipping Out; rather, Karp indulges himself by reeling in his reader through many layers of plot and a teaser crime solution part way through the story.

Who knew that LA Homicide duty could be so funny?   A unique and enjoyable read!

Recommended.

Review by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Minotaur Books.

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