Cover image of "When the Bough Breaks," a novel about a child psychologist who solves a murder

The traumatizing sight of a dead body in his office, an apparent suicide, prompts child psychologist Alex Delaware to retire prematurely at the age of thirty-three. A successful real estate investor, he has the resources to support a more than comfortable lifestyle and is determined to forsake the frenzied professional life he’d previously led. Then LAPD detective Milo Sturgis surfaces in his life again — it was he who investigated the suicide in Alex’s office — and he is drawn into collaborating with Sturgis in investigating a horrific double murder. Reluctantly at first, then with increasing determination, Alex devotes his time, his psychological insight, and his considerable intelligence to rooting out the truth behind the murder . . . and nearly loses his life in the process.

Not just psychology but engaging style, too

Himself an accomplished psychologist, Jonathan Kellerman clearly knows his stuff when it comes to his field. He is, after all, a child psychologist himself. And the signs are all there in When the Bough Breaks. Still, it’s little wonder that he turned to writing fiction even while persisting in his career in psychology. Anyone who can write passages like the following really ought to be a novelist: “His eyes were pale, almost without color. I’d seen eyes like that before. On mullet, packed in ice.” Or, again, in describing blood as “the ruby syrup of life.” I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to resist the humor in this sort of writing.

When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware #1) by Jonathan Kellerman (1985) 450 pages ★★★★☆

About the author

In 1985 Jonathan Kellerman published When the Bough Breaks, which won the Edgar and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel. The book introduced Kellerman’s alter ego, the child psychologist Alex Delaware. It was the first of thirty-one novels to date featuring Delaware. He has also written several important books and articles about psychopathology. In 2015, Kellerman won the highest accolade from his profession, the American Psychological Association Lifetime Award for Contributions to Psychology.

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