Child psychologist Jonathan Kellerman writes complex murder mysteries featuring his alter ego, Alex Delaware. There are 32 such novels to date. Time Bomb, published in 1990, was the fifth in the series—and the first I found disappointing.
The set-up in Time Bomb is much like that of the earlier entries: to help children after a school shooting, Alex finds himself drawn further and further into a murder mystery. That seemingly straightforward mystery quickly morphs into a complex case that heads off in several seemingly unrelated directions. Working with his friend, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis—though taking the lead himself—Alex weaves these disparate threads into a logical set of relationships that don’t become clear until the end of the book.
Time Bomb (Alex Delaware #5) by Jonathan Kellerman @@@ (3 out of 5)
A school shooting, 60s radicals, and the Holocaust
As in the preceding novels, the tension steadily mounts, the complexities become progressively more confusing, and both Alex and Milo’s lives are threatened, but all comes out well following a violent climax. That school shooting turns out to have been far more complicated than it seemed at first. Unfortunately, in a way that’s disturbingly reminiscent of the formulaic whodunits of Agatha Christie and her ilk, sorting it all out at the end requires far too much explanation. And one central character demonstrates technological capabilities that might well have been within the reach of the National Security Agency in 1988 but were surely out of reach of any individual.
Despite these disappointments, reading the novel brings rewards. Kellerman’s research into the Holocaust, though it reveals nothing new, is well done. His exploration of the history of neo-Nazi activities in the United States is engaging. The insight Kellerman offers about how children react to trauma is obviously on point. And it’s always a pleasure to learn more about the work of Alex Delaware, which surely reflects the author’s personal experience.
For additional reading
For a review of another Alex Delaware novel that I enjoyed a lot more, see This complex murder mystery hinges on the symptoms of schizophrenia. You might also be interested in my reviews of 48 excellent mystery and thriller series.
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