Book review: Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman

No-one knows better than Jonathan Kellerman what makes the best crime thrillers so thrilling.
Breakdown byJonathan KellermanBreakdown byJonathan Kellerman
Breakdown byJonathan Kellerman

Famous for his intelligent, razor-sharp plotting, stylish writing and ability to home in on the criminal mind, former clinical psychologist Kellerman’s hard-hitting and sophisticated thrillers have won him a huge fan base.

Breakdown is the 31st outing for child psychologist Alex Delaware in Kellerman’s much acclaimed LA ‘Crime Reader’ series which has become an exhilarating masterclass in the art of plotting, suspense, characterisation and brilliant mind games.

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And Delaware certainly has his work cut out in this gripping new mystery which sees the super sleuth psychologist and his trusty sidekick, LAPD detective Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, trying to track down a murder victim’s missing child.

Five years ago, Dr Alex Delaware met beautiful and emotionally fragile TV sitcom actress Zelda Chase. The vulnerable 30-year-old had been diagnosed with a serious personality disorder and Delaware was called in to evaluate her five-year-old son, Ovid.

Alex is unexpectedly reunited with Zelda, now living rough on the streets, when she is committed to a mental health unit in LA after a bizarre psychotic episode. Shortly after Zelda’s release, tragedy strikes when she is found dead in the grounds of a palatial Bel Air mansion. She has been poisoned with a rare and deadly herb.

Having experienced enough of LA’s dark side to recognise the scent of evil, Alex turns to his friend, Lt Milo Sturgis, for help in finding out who ended Zelda’s broken life. At the same time, Alex is caught up in another quest… to find Zelda’s missing son, now aged 11.

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But when other victims vanish from the same upmarket neighbourhood, worry turns to terror, and with each devastating revelation and damning clue unearthed, Alex’s brilliant mind is challenged as never before and his determination grows to see a killer caged and the truth set free.

Kellerman brings his own medical expertise to this fascinating, baffling whodunit which is packed with twists and turns, and explores the human mind at its most complex and dangerous.

In a dark and emotive case that often seems to raise more questions than answers, Delaware and Sturgis are forced to employ a good, old-fashioned brand of painstaking detective work if they are to find and corner a ruthless killer.

Compelling, thought-provoking and ingeniously conceived, Breakdown sees the master of psychological suspense on top form.

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)