One of the pleasures of reading novels in a long-running series is the opportunity to watch the protagonists’ growth. Faye Kellerman launched the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series in 1986 with the publication of The Ritual Bath. Now, more than thirty years later, comes Walking Shadows, the twenty-fifth book in the series. The two principal characters are entirely recognizable, but their lives have changed dramatically.
Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus are all grown up now
Now, Peter and Rina live in a small upscale college town in upstate New York called Greenbury. Rina is now in her fifties. We don’t know Peter’s age, but he appears to be in his late sixties or seventies. He had long ago converted to Orthodox Judaism, and the couple meticulously observe the Sabbath. Shabbos dinner is a warmly welcomed weekly ritual. But, at least in Walking Shadows, there’s no other sign of how religion might be dominant in their lives. By contrast, Judaism was central to The Ritual Bath and to its immediate sequels, which are full of detail about the practices of the yeshiva where Rina was a teacher.
Walking Shadows (Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus #25) by Faye Kellerman (2018) 432 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Apparently, Rina and Peter now have several children and grandchildren, although only one daughter is named in Walking Shadows. Cindy is a sergeant on the Philadelphia Police Force. She plays a role in the novel off-stage.
A body turns up, and jurisdictional disputes ensue
Several years ago, Peter retired after thirty-five years with the LAPD. He and Rina chose Greenbury in hopes the pace of work would be less intense for him than it was in Los Angeles. But somehow Peter has been drawn into one murder case after another. Now, in Walking Shadows, another body turns up, dumped in the backyard of a home in a toney retiree neighborhood. But it’s soon unclear whether the Greenbury Police have jurisdiction in the case. The body is that of a man from the neighboring town of Hamilton, a much larger community. Jurisdictional disputes prove to be one of the knottiest aspects of the investigation.
As Peter delves into the new case, he decides quickly that there is a link to a brutal murder committed twenty years earlier in Hamilton. The father of the dead man was convicted of the crime and has been in prison ever since. Unfortunately, Greenbury’s present-day chief of police was in charge of the investigation of that murder. So, it’s entirely inconvenient that Peter comes to believe that the investigation was flawed.
About the author
Faye Kellerman, her husband Jonathan, and their children Jesse and Aliza have together written a total of nearly 100 mystery novels. (Jonathan has also written five nonfiction books, and Jesse has won awards as a playwright.) So, it’s hard to imagine what dinner at the Kellerman home might have been like when the children were growing up. Was talk about soccer games and first dates crowded out by discussions of editorial transgressions and the latest plot twists? Given that each of the parents has collaborated with each other and with one of the children, it’s difficult not to think that talk about books didn’t come up at least some of the time.
Neither one of the parents began adult life as a writer. Faye went to dental school and earned a D.D.S., although she never practiced. Jonathan is a PhD child psychologist who worked and taught in the field for 16 years before turning to writing full-time. (By that time, he had already written five bestselling novels.) Son Jesse studied psychology at Harvard but turned to writing novels and plays soon afterward.
In Walking Shadows, Faye Kellerman refers, obviously tongue-in-cheek, to the protagonist of her husband’s own long-running mystery series, Alex Delaware. A man Peter Decker is interviewing mentions him in an aside.
“Alex Delaware drives a Seville.”
“You know, the psychologist in the books. He works with that policeman . . . what’s his name.” A pause. “Milo Sturgis. They work together solving crimes. You don’t read mysteries? You should. Damn good novels.”
I guess the temptation was irresistible.
For additional reading
I’ve already reviewed the first two Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novels:
- The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus #1) — An unusually strong start to the Faye Kellerman series of detective novels; and
- Sacred and Profane (Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus #2) — The Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novels highlight Orthodox Jewish religious practices.
You’ll find this and dozens of other excellent novels at 5 top Los Angeles mysteries and thrillers (plus lots of runners-up).
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- Top 10 mystery and thriller series;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers; and
- 20 outstanding detective series from around the world.
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