Monday, March 11, 2019

A Measure of Darkness

A Measure of Darkness
by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the second Clay Edison thriller, the Bay Area coroner’s deputy hears himself likened to a barnacle that just won’t let go. He displays that quality in his pursuit of the identity of a woman whose strangled body turns up at the periphery of a shootout in which several other people were killed. In fact, there turn out to have been four different killers in the incident that started, apparently, as a confrontation about a noisy party that went terribly wrong. But one of the victims – a Jane Doe found hidden in a garden shed – apparently died in circumstances that had nothing to do with the front-yard fracas. Somehow, Clay and a cooperative police detective grow increasingly certain that her fate is tied up with an experimental school up the coast.

I am so leery of giving away the secrets that Clay discovers that I'll confine most of my remaining remarks to singing the praises of this book, co-written by a father-son team who, separately, are responsible for the Alex Delaware thrillers (Jonathan) and such titles as The Golem of Hollywood, Sunstroke, Trouble and Potboiler (Jesse). Edison's character has a dogged tenacity that makes him both a flawed human being and a terrific sleuth, whose talents are wasted on a service devoted to securing the bodies and personal effects of the dead. All he is really supposed to do is find out Jane Doe's name, issue a manner of death (homicide, in her case), and try to connect with her next of kin so they can make burial arrangements. But as he finds in multiple aspects of the shootout case, closure can be elusive. One family doesn't want to acknowledge that their son identifies as a daughter, while the trans community she belonged to is resistant to outsiders. A teen is conflicted about turning in his best friend, who was one of the shooters, even though a third buddy was a victim. A witness whose panicked attempt to flee resulted in another bystander's death also turns out to have a connection with Jane Doe. And the suicide of a teen in another jurisdiction may continue to have deadly consequences today.

Clay pursues these tenuous threads at the risk of his own career, his safety, and his knee (which hasn't been great). Meantime, he has family issues to deal with, including his ex-con brother's announcement that he is engaged, just when Clay and his girlfriend are about to announce their engagement. His family and work relationships prove an opportunity for the Kellermans to demonstrate an ability to portray a wide variety of people with vividly clashing but lifelike personalities. Meantime, they lay out a vibrant landscape of California scenery, law enforcement procedures, office politics, the grim reality of death and the compassion of dedicated people like Clay Edison, who serve and protect people at their most vulnerable (i.e., dead). It does this all with sexy charisma, dry humor and a bottomless supply of sentences that I want to stop and read out loud.

Rumor has it there's a third novel about Clay Edison due for release sometime in 2020. I won't be caught dead missing it.

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