The Murderer’s Daughter | Jonathan Kellerman

Kernel Fiona Fyfe, self confessed crime fiction addict dives into to her first Jonathan Kellerman novel in THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER and is thoroughly impressed. For fans of Kellerman this is a stand alone novel (for now) featuring a student of series regular, Alex Delaware. Kellerman has written over fifty books and you could call him prolific and exceptionally skilled, mostly writing his characters from a psychology background. For fans of Kellerman you are going to love this one. THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER is out now from our friends at Hachette Australia, it will be available in all good bookstores or you can obtain it in paperback or e-book from HERE. Enjoy Fi’s review………all the best………JK.

 

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BY FIONA FYFE

As a self-confessed crime fiction snob, there are some authors I have diligently steered clear of over the years. Dedicated as I have been to the Ruth Rendells and Patricia Highsmiths, I have sometimes wrongfully overlooked some real crackers. It was a pleasant surprise then to read my first Jonathan Kellerman story and to discover that I really like this guy. Kellerman is probably best known for his Alex Delaware novels that feature Delaware as a child psychologist who consults for the police. Kellerman himself is a psychologist and in his latest offering, his protagonist Grace Blades is a successful private clinician.

THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER begins with five year old Grace who lives with her junkie alcoholic parents in a trailer park. Grace witnesses their brutal murder-suicide and is subsequently sent to a series of foster homes. In the last home she lives in before she is adopted by a loving couple, she encounters real evil and the experience leaves an indelible mark on her psyche. Intellectually brilliant, Grace’s adoptive parents nurture her intelligence and send her to the best schools and universities from which she graduates as a very young but highly respected psychologist.

 

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In some ways still a victim of her unsavoury beginnings, she medicates herself emotionally by engaging in anonymous sexual trysts with complete strangers. The thrill of these encounters is a form of addiction for Grace so that the riskier the assignation, the greater the excitement. After picking up a conquest in a downtown bar, the next morning she is alarmed to discover he is her new patient. Before she knows it her professional life has collided with her private life as well as her past and she is in mortal danger.

THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER is replete with twists and turns, red herrings, a whole tapestry of emotional baggage and suffering as well as a more than cursory glimpse into the world of foster care, lawyers and religious mania. Are we ever really free from past damage or does the way we in which we choose to react to it, ultimately change our fates? Is there any truth to the hypothesis that the best shrinks are those who have experienced pain or regardless, are they all slightly left of centre?

With Grace, Kellerman has created a complex character and initially she seems to be made of Teflon. Quarantining her emotions and schooling herself in martial arts, Grace is a tough cookie. Grace takes no prisoners. It might be a fair call to say that superficially, she seems to be a slightly unreal personality – too cold, too clinical and way too emotionally detached to be credible. On a closer examination I think it’s fair to say that the trauma she suffered as a child would have turned many people into hardened criminals but given her superior intellect, she has harnessed that pain for a greater good. There is a deep authenticity to Grace.

Her speciality as a clinician is post-traumatic stress associated with being the child of a murderer. She refers to these patients as The Haunted and has developed a therapeutic style strongly influenced by her own childhood. While she may often deny her own emotional needs and leads a life of self-imposed alienation, she is nevertheless insightful and empathetic. Although socially unreachable and friendless she is also an interesting and sympathetic character.

 

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Kellerman has chosen to tell THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER by blending the present with flashbacks to Grace’s past and his chapter structure is curious. He likes to remain with a theme and a static chronology over many chapters rather than jumping around from past to present. This level of continuity as opposed to a constant flitting along points on the time-line, is engrossing. It allows the reader to become well acquainted with Grace and more invested in the plot development.

The use of a psychologist in crime fiction is also a refreshing perspective. The producers of television programmes such as Cracker and Halifax fp recognised it and employed this angle successfully. The crime fiction market is saturated with traditional detective stories where the LAPD or an English DCI, complete with hang-ups and more often than not a drinking problem, solves the case and fights personal demons. It’s appealing then to read cases told from the perspective of another occupation and to immerse one’s self in an alternative field of reference. The only cop that makes an appearance in this book is vaguely pilloried as a bit of a plodder.

Kellerman’s intimate working knowledge of psychology is ever apparent. Just as Robin Cook MD can weave a gripping medical thriller and John Grisham can adroitly take us into the legal fraternity, Kellerman’s professional skills serve him well as a writer. His proficient character development as well as his analysis of those character’s motivations, add a definite believability to THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER. It’s inspiring to read American crime fiction that doesn’t rely on high speed car chases and flaky portrayals. A more erudite version of a Gillian Flynn novel while still paying homage to a strong female lead, makes for a big thumbs up.

 

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Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then. You can catch her and her tweets at @FionaJayneFyfe1

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.