A brutalized corpse discovered in a remote region of the Hollywood Hills plunges psychologist detective Alex Delaware into a landscape of rage and madness as he struggles to solve this most baffling of homicides.
To some, Eldon Mate was evil personified. Others saw the former physician as a saint. But one thing was clear: Dr. Death had snuffed out the lives of dozens of human beings and now someone had turned him into a victim. When Mate is found mutilated in a rented van, harnessed to his own killing machine, Delaware is asked to aid his old friend, homicide cop Milo Sturgis, in the hunt for the death doctor?s executioner. But Alex harbors secrets of his own that threaten to derail the partners? friendship as well as the increasingly complex investigation. With page-turning suspense and vivid portraits of L.A.?s darkest side, perennial bestseller Jonathan Kellerman?s latest tale of psychopathology taken to the extreme delivers an unforgettable journey into the most sinister corners of the human mind.
Dr. Eldon Mate, a.k.a. Dr. Death, has been the bane of the Los Angeles D.A.'s existence, the bête noir of all opposed to assisted suicide, and the angel of mercy to countless "travelers" who have gone to their reward via Mate's good offices. He's also turned up in the back of his van, attached to his own death-dealing "Humanitron" machine and too far away from most of his blood and a certain external organ.
Enter Milo Sturgis, L.A.'s only openly gay homicide detective, and for the 14th time in 15 years (1985's Edgar-winning When the Bough Breaks through 1999's Monster), enter also his good friend, child psychologist and LAPD consultant Dr. Alex Delaware. Unbeknownst to Sturgis, however, is a potentially case-stymieing doctor-patient conflict of interest. One of Delaware's young patients' mother was either the beneficiary or victim of Dr. Death's services, depending upon your point of view. The father, Richard Doss, is firmly in the latter camp, giving Delaware ample pause:
After hearing the details of the murder, I felt better. The butchery didn't seem like Richard's style. Though how sure of that could I be? Richard hadn't disclosed any more about himself than he'd wanted to. In control, always in control. One of those people who crowds every room he enters. Maybe that had been part of what led his wife to seek out Eldon Mate. Maybe. But the fact is that there's no shortage of motivated suspects from both within and without the late doctor's circle of influence. And as usual, Jonathan Kellerman (himself a child psychologist and recognized authority in childhood psycho-pathology) guides Delaware's engaging first-person narrative with expertise, keeps Detective Sturgis real, and rudders his taut story to its satisfying end with sharp, true-to-the-ear dialogue. With Dr. Death, Kellerman's legion of Delaware fans will be very well pleased, and first-timers will almost certainly join the legion. --Michael Hudson