A Cold Heart

Reviewed: May 4, 2005
By: Jonathan Kellerman / read by John Rubinstein
Publisher: Random House Audio / four cassettes
6 hours, $39.95

While we know that the murder of blues guitarist Baby Boy Lee must have something to do the murder of painter Juliet Kipper almost immediately, we can forgive the detectives in the separate cases for not making a connection right away.

After all, the victims were of different sexes, worked in different fields of endeavor, and were not, apparently, killed in quite the same manner.

In addition, the killings happened in different jurisdictions so that Detective Petra Connor (apparently the central character in another Kellerman series) and Lieutenant Milo Sturgis would not necessarily have had any reason to compare notes.

That would be where Dr. Alex Delaware comes into the picture. It happens that Alex has a slight connection to the late blues man in that his former lover, Robin Castegna, is the luthier who worked on the big man's stratocasters when his ferocious playing wore them down. Petra ends up talking to him about that killing while trying to contact Robin.

Talking with Milo about the "weird ones" is something that Alex does regularly anyway, and the juxtaposition of the two cases is enough to get the clinical psychologist's little gray cells turning over.

Alex needs a little distraction any way. While it has been months since he and Robin broke up their long term relationship, Alex still lives in the home they designed together and, as he puts it, his DNA is still infused with hers.

This was manageable as long as he was not seeing anyone else, but the lovely Dr. Allison Gwynn entered his life in a recent case, (The Murder Book) and now, months later, Alex and Allison, an apparently well matched pair, have begun what can only be the prelude to a long term arrangement.

Her emotions are complicated by the death of her husband some years earlier, and his by the lingering affection he still bears for Robin. Both of them feel slightly guilty and, as a side effect of their shared profession, neither is quire sure whether the other is being entirely candid, or just giving responses based on their clinical training.

I like the way that Robin has not simply disappeared from this series. She was always uncomfortable with Alex’s fascination with crime and her reaction to it is what made him aware that he had something of an addiction problem in his choice of sideline. On the other hand, except for the romance, she wasn’t a terribly good fit within the series, so this reader was not surprised when what seemed to be a sure thing began to fray around the edges, and even less surprised when Robin’s road trips with various bands and musical groups eventually turned up a new love interest for her.

Still, it would be unrealistic to have someone an embedded as she was in Alex’s life vanish without lingering effects, especially in a series which is rooted in psychology. Alex has a lot of issues to work through, and these are complicated by the way in which Robin becomes part of the present case.

First person is the basic narrative mode of a Delaware mystery. Kellerman used to give us third person chapters from other points of view and explain that Alex learned this stuff, but he seems to have given up on that now and has decided to rotate through his cast of characters. All the investigators get chapters from their viewpoint now: Petra, Milo and even newcomer Eric Stahl, Petra's new partner on the night shift.

Eric is an interesting addition to the cast, one which is barely fleshed out during his appearance in this story. We will have lots to learn about him in novels yet to come, I am sure.

John Rubinstein has narrated all the Delaware novels that I have heard, and he does an excellent job of voicing the various characters. Men, women, good folk or bad all come through clearly. A good reading can be the making of a book, and I've found I actually enjoy hearing these just as much as I do reading them myself.