Monday, August 19, 2019

Over the Edge

Over the Edge
by Jonathan Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the third mystery-thriller headlined by him, child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware is awakened in the wee hours by a phone call from a former patient in crisis. Nothing that young Jamey Cadmus says makes immediate sense. He seems to be in the throes of psychosis. But by the time Alex gets to the inpatient clinic where Jamey is being treated, the kid has escaped and turns up, not long afterward, at the scene of a grisly crime with the murder weapon in his bloody hands. Suddenly a troubled kid Alex treated five years ago is the prime suspect in a serial killer case.

While Alex wonders how he could have failed Jamey so badly, he also wrestles with several strange contradictions in the boy's case. In the first place, there's something really odd about the way Jamey's symptoms respond to antipsychotic drugs. For another, there's the fact that somebody as crazy as Jamey seems to be couldn't possibly plan and carry out such a highly organized series of crimes. They may sound alike, but psychosis and psychopathy are very different disorders, and those afflicted by them aren't going to kill people in the same way. But while Alex suspects that Jamey may not be guilty at all, his (Alex's) best friend, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, thinks the kid is good for the crime, and a couple of his more obnoxious colleagues believe it even harder. On the other side is Jamey's family lawyer, who wants Alex to testify that Jamey is not guilty by reason of insanity – a defense Alex doesn't really believe in.

So, from the very start, it's a case fraught with problems. Alex becomes isolated by his differences with the lawyer on the one hand and Milo and Co. on the other. As he probes deeper – at risk of being caught interfering with the case by one side or the other – he detects a connection between Jamey's disturbed ravings and a real estate deal in a remote desert valley. Something about the kid's family history is coming back to bite him, and it may bite Alex, too.

This series continues to present a fascinating and unusual side of crime-solving – a side that involves serious psychological research, that delves into history, anthropology, class warfare, sexual identity, the socialization of extremely gifted children and the finer points of treating a serious mental illness – including, perhaps, creating one on purpose. It is, no pun intended, a disturbing look at the child psych issues, and other things, that can lead to terrible things happening to complex people. And, of course, it's a straight-up sexy thriller featuring a sleuth who, by now, should get more credit than he does for how well he does what he does.

As for reading about him doing more of it, please see the next book in this series, Silent Partner, as well as the whole series of titles that follow it. The 34th and latest is The Wedding Guest, and another titled The Museum of Desire is expected in February 2020.

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