Abundance of theories muddies path to killer

This week’s book was “Rage” by Jonathon Kellerman. It was good but difficult to read. As with many of his books, it features psychiatrist Alex Delaware and LAPD Lt. Milo Sturgis.

The book begins with a phone call from Rand Duchay. Eight years ago, then-13-year-olds Duchay and Troy Turner abducted and killed 2-year-old Kristal Malley. When arrested, they didn’t deny killing the little girl. Alex had been asked to interview the boys to determine if they understood the magnitude of what they’d done.

It didn’t take him long to see that Troy fancied himself a stone-cold killer. On the other hand, it was obvious that Rand had severe learning disabilities and had followed Troy’s lead in the attack. As expected, a plea bargain put the boys into separate juvenile facilities in California.

Within a month, Troy was found dead. Now Rand has been released early, and he wants to speak with Dr. Delaware. Alex agrees to meet him, but Rand never shows. The next day, Milo calls to tell him that Rand has been found dead. He was shot at close range in the left temple. Suddenly the old case comes crashing into Alex’s life again.

They quickly learn that Rand had been released into the custody of Drew and Cherish Daney, the same couple who had done spiritual counseling for Troy Turner eight years ago. It seems that the couple specializes in fostering teens with disabilities. Cherish is distraught about Rand’s death, but Drew seems convinced that Kristal’s father, Barnett Malley, killed the boy in revenge.

A little checking finds Barnett living on a small “recreation” park. Strangely, his wife killed herself soon after Kristal’s death. It, too, was a shot to the left temple. Those facts are too coincidental for Milo, but he has no evidence that her death was a murder.

As Alex and Milo dig into the old case, they call on Sue Kramer. She’d worked the original case and offered some insights into those involved. Milo was curious about why Troy had insisted that he’d be out soon and then he’d be rich. Alex is able to speak with Rand’s public defender, but only learns that the planned defense fell apart when Troy’s lawyer tried to put the murder all on Rand. A plea deal was the best he could do. When he tried to speak with Troy’s public defender, Sydney Weider, she screamed so loudly it sent him packing.

Each time Milo and Alex compared notes, they kept returning to possible scenarios. They included: Barnett Malley killing his wife; Troy and Rand for revenge; or hiring the boys to kill Kristal because she wasn’t his baby, then killing his wife a few months later; or Cherish Daney having an affair with Barnett and wanting the child out of the way, then having Rand killed to tie up loose ends; or Drew Daney having an affair with Lara Malley, fathering Kristal and wanting to get rid of the child; as well as a few other far-fetched possibilities that were nothing more than conjecture.

When they look into Troy’s death in custody, they learn that young Nestor Almediera had killed Troy and was now living nearby. By the time they find him, Nestor is dead — another close-range bullet to the left temple.

This tangled web of murder gets more frustrating at every step with more bodies and disappearances uncovered. The one constant in them all is the connection between Drew and Cherish Daney and Barnett Malley.

The book’s ending is almost anti-climactic. While some loose ends are tied up, others remain. I guess Mr. Kellerman likes to leave readers wondering.


BOOK: “Rage”

AUTHOR: Jonathon Kellerman

PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books

PUBLISHED: May 24, 2005

PAGES: 416