According to the dictionary, deception is the acts or practices of one who deliberately deceives or lies. But when you have a whole group of people who are well practiced in the art of deception, investigating a murder can become very tricky — as it does in Jonathan Kellerman’s latest book, “Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel.”
When the body of Elise Freeman is found in a bathtub full of dry ice, it becomes a case for Los Angeles Police Department’s homicide unit. But when it’s discovered that Ms. Freeman was a teacher at one of L.A.’s most prestigious private schools and that she had left a DVD message accusing other teachers there of sexual harassment and abuse, Detective Milo Sturgis is brought in to keep the case from exploding in the media.
Because of the bizarre nature of the death, Sturgis once again turns to his buddy, psychologist Alex Delaware, to help him try and piece together the crime and figure out who would have been so twisted as to commit this heinous act.
As the two enter the hallowed halls of upper-crust education at Windsor Preparatory Academy, they soon find a bevy of teachers scrambling to clear their names, a mass of spoiled rich kids who seem oblivious to a teacher’s death, and an administration desperately trying to keep Sturgis and Delaware from digging too deeply into school records and policies.
And to make things more complicated, the police chief’s son is a senior at the academy, shooting for an Ivy League admission, and the chief wants this case quietly closed — and now. But nothing Sturgis and Delaware are ever involved in is considered quiet, and the two stir up one hornets nest after another, trying to find the killer.
They discover the mousy little teacher was not quiet the innocent victim she portrayed herself to be on the DVD, and that Elise Freeman had quite the dark side. As clues lead the detective and doctor up and down the California coast, it soon becomes clear that the lifestyles of the rich and famous in education can hide vicious and dangerous secrets.
“Deception” is Kellerman’s 23 book in the Alex Delaware series, which began with “When The Bough Breaks,” back in 1985. A psychological thriller, “Deception” contains all the intrigue of a mystery with a healthy dose of spine-tingling mind games that will have readers captivated from the first page.
To keep a series about two main characters, Delaware and Sturgis, going for so long and for them to continue to be so popular is an achievement of which few authors can boast. For a first-time reader, a lot of the inside jokes and references to past associations and events can be rather confusing, but fans of the good doctor and the flamboyant detective will enjoy the easy camaraderie between the two.