Rina Lazarus and her husband, LAPD Homicide Lt. Peter Decker, are shocked by an outrage that cuts close to the spiritual heart of their family. Rina's small storefront synagogue has been desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti and grisly Nazi death camp photographs. The alleged perpetrator is seventeen year-old Ernesto Golding, a "rich kid" obsessed with haunting suspicions about the origins of his Polish paternal grandfather. Then Ernesto is found brutally murdered, along with his therapist, Dr. Mervin Baldwin, at an exclusive nature camp that caters to moneyed, troubled children. For Decker and his wife, unraveling the truth behind Ernesto's violent death becomes more terrifying with each sinister twist. For lethal secrets with roots in the horrors of a past generation are coming to the surface, propelling Peter and Rina into a ghastly world of ruthless parents and damaged youth—and toward a dark evil and its ultimate retribution.
L.A. homicide detective Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, his Orthodox Jewish wife, return in a new entry in this popular series. Faye Kellerman can be counted on to deliver emotional complexity along with suspense, and in The Forgotten it comes from the relationship between Peter and Jacob, Rina's troubled teenage son. Jacob has a personal connection to the event that sets off this intricately plotted novel, the defacing of Rina's synagogue by one of his classmates. Ernesto Golding can't explain why he vandalized the synagogue, but when he and his therapists are murdered months after the incident, Peter realizes that something the teenager told him when admitting his guilt may hold the key to the killings: Ernesto's belief that his grandfather may have been a Nazi who posed as a Jew to escape to South America after the war. Investigating Ernesto's story gives Rina a strand of the plot to tease out; meanwhile, Peter concentrates on another motive for the therapist murders that involves computer fraud, the College Board exams, and the high cost exacted by parents who pressure their teenagers to succeed.
Kellerman skillfully keeps the dramatic tension going as she pulls all the pieces of her complex plot together. But what makes this novel her best yet is her acutely revealing portrait of Jacob, struggling with the existential angst of adolescence as he attempts to reconcile his devotion to Judaism with the temptations of contemporary life, from drugs to sex. She brilliantly limns his search for identity, intimacy, and independence even as he redefines his relationship to Peter and Rina, in a scenario that resounds with psychological truth. The Forgotten is a terrific addition to the Kellerman oeuvre. While she's always been an exceptional illustrator of the emotional life of the family, this time she writes with an expertise that may owe something to professional insights of her husband, author Jonathan Kellerman, who's also a child psychologist. --Jane Adams