An absurd Conspiracy Club (Kellerman’s latest novel)

conspiracyclub.jpgLast night, or rather, early this morning, I finished The Conspiracy Club, Jonathan Kellerman's latest novel. It was not one of those start-it-and-read-until-your-eyes-fall-out books. But then, Kellerman's books over the last five years or so haven't been, either.

This book is not an Alex Delaware novel, for which I was glad because I've grown increasingly bored with Delaware, his lady friend Robin, the dog, but not Milo Sturgis, the detective. No, instead, this book is about psychologist Jeremy Carrier (what an awkward name) and is set at a municipal hospital somewhere in the Midwest, in a city located on a lake. The city didn't really evoke Chicago--more evocative of Pittsburgh or Detroit though they don't fit the criteria (the unknown city was very disorienting because it forced a focus on it which detracted greatly from the plot).

The story opens with Jeremy going through the motions of life after his girlfriend, a nurse, was murdered. I almost wrote, "brutally murdered," but realized that all murders are brutal and I'm lately hyper-aware of clichs -- mainly from watching the evening news.

Back to the story. Jeremy, of course, was considered a suspect by the loutish-but-sharp detectives (Kellerman's male cops are all loutish, stoutish, on the crude side, but sharp). When more women are murdered and carved up in the same manner as Jeremy's girlfiend, the cops focus on him even more. But, naturally, Our Hero is innocent, it seems. And for someone who is the focus of a serial killer investigation, his life sure wasn't hell. More like chance encounters with Det. Lout.

Then, the mysterious retired pathologist, Dr. Chess, takes an interest in Jeremy and begins dropping clues about the girlfriend's murder. Chess takes him to a fancy dinner at some kind of club, where Jeremy meets other mysterious people such as a judge, a retired diplomat, a brilliant scientist, etc. The whole dinner scene was quite unbelievable and rather pointless. A lot of this book is rather pointless. The premise is extraordinarily weak -- if Chess knew who the frelling killer was, why did several more women have to die, why didn't he just work with the cops instead of feeding Jeremy these abstruse clues and hoping the shrink would get a clue? This wasn't exactly one of those dinner and a mystery evenings -- women were being sliced and diced for real.

Anyway, the Good Shrink Carrier gets involved with another woman, a resident name of Angela, and of course he's all reticent and guarded with her and so forth. Problem is, I never believed Carrier gave a rat's ass about Angela as much as I believed his was just going with the flow. So the romance didn't work for me.

Finally, at long last and after many, many, many digressions and a singular lack of what could pass as a clue about how to use the Internet to find out information about people, Jeremy figures out Chess' clues. Or does he?

The ending is one of those ultra-convenient "Smedley Saves the Day In the Nick of Time" devices and the whole thing is not, repeat NOT, worth the time invested in reading it. The book is hackwork. There are theories by Amazon reviewers that this is one of Kellerman's very early works dusted off and offered as an antidote to recent Delaware novels. I can buy that. This book certainly is amateur enough to be an early attempt. One of those books that gets published only because the author has enough clout, and is enough of a rainmaker, to get the publisher to go along with it. Either that, or there's some serious slippage going on here.

It's not nearly as awful as my all-time nomination for worst book ever by a normally good writer, Patricia Cornwell's Hornet's Nest. Not by a long shot. But compared with Kellerman's best, it's bad enough that it will make me think twice before investing much time (let alone money) in his next book.
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