Monster by Jonathan Kellerman
Pros: Decent premise
Cons: But dull, dull, dull.
The description on the back cover grabbed my attention. But the book failed to keep it. I’m talking about Monster, part of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series. For those unfamiliar, Alex is a forensic psychologist who is often called to consult with the police, when they’re chasing a bad guy. Alex’s knowledge of psychology is frequently useful, both when attempting to create a profile to help identify the perpetrator, as well to help in the capture.
In this case, two grisly murders have been discovered. The victims seem to have nothing in common – the first is a wannabe actor. The second is a psychologist working with criminally insane patients. But their murders are similar enough to indicate the same killer.
So Alex and his partner, Milo, head to the asylum to get a better understanding of the second victim. And there they meet one of the patients – a man who appears to be completely out of it. But, later, they find out that the man mumbled something that indicates knowledge of the murder. Even more bizarre, later he mumbles something else – something that accurately describes another set of murders that occurs the next day. Did this otherwise non-communicative man actually predict the murders? Or is something far more sinister going on?
That’s the basic premise and I admit I found it intriguing. The thought that a man locked in a secure facility, under heavy medication, barely communicative, could somehow “know” about murders going on outside the facility absolute hooked me.
But, wow, did this book drag! First of all, absolutely nothing exciting happens for the first 80 or so pages. That’s how long it takes before any of the events described above happen. Prior to that, it’s a pretty long, drawn out set up of the circumstances. We get to learn a lot about the facility, and the staff who work there, but nothing that kept me awake late at night.
Then, finally, the story gets underway. And it’s fairly interesting, for a while. But then the book starts dragging, again. It was one of those books that I had to force myself to continue, even though it simply didn’t hold my interest. I just kept hoping it would pick up.
Worst, most of the middle of the book was devoted to Alex and Milo theorizing about what was going on. There was a whole lot of guesswork. Some of it turned out to be valid, some didn’t. But it seems like lazy writing to me – filler, really. Like the author had nothing interesting to add for several pages, so he just added a conversation where the two leads discuss “possibilities”.
It does get somewhat exciting, towards the end, when the real story finally unfolds. But by then, it was really a case of “too little, too late”. I had completely detached from the book, and was reading it purely out of a sense of obligation to complete that which I start. I just didn’t care about any of the characters. Sure, I want murderers to be caught, and justice dealt for the victims. But beyond that – the characters meant nothing to me.
There weren’t even any subplots or details about Alex’s personal life in this book. His wife, Robin, is mentioned, but is never heard from. Basically, the entire book revolves around this one case, with absolutely nothing else to help provide some interest. And while the ultimate story was somewhat intriguing, it is not worth the time and effort it took to wade through this very dull book to get there.
Jonathan Kellerman books are always hit-or-miss with me. And Monster is definitely a miss.