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Hangman, Faye Kellerman, William Morrow, $25.99.

Bloody Mary by J.A. Konrath

The days have passed when I was completely obsessed by Faye Kellerman - I loved Rina and Peter, and couldn’t wait to see what happened to them next.  I had started with Ms. Kellerman’s husband, Jonathan, and had inhaled most of those when I stumbled on The Ritual Bath, still one of my favorite mysteries.  But the charm had palled after a certain point and I had given up reading the books as they came out.  Picking up the new book  reminded me of why I enjoyed the books so much in the first place.  Neither Kellerman shys away from the grimmer side of crime, and this novel is no exception to that rule of thumb.  The opening scene describes the hanging death of a young woman, one whose identity isn’t even clear. 

There are a couple of great things about this series.  One is the solid police procedural aspect, always one of my favorite forms of the genre, with the intelligent and even tempered Peter Decker at the center of every investigation.  Another great thing is the interest of the Decker’s home life: Peter’s wife Rina is an orthodox Jew and the parts of that way of life as they are integrated into the books are fascinating.  And as the first book established Rina and Peter as a couple, now 18 or so books into the series, Rina and Peter are a comfortable old married couple, and they are the comfortable center of every book.

In this outing, the very first section deals with an old case - Peter had agreed to be present when a woman’s abusive husband comes to talk with her. Peter had known her as a teenage victim and feels proprietary.  His agreement to meet with the husband comes with Rina’s extreme reluctance.  While the meeting seemingly goes well, the woman subsequently disappears (and Peter first fears that the dead body is hers), and he’s is left with the woman’s 14 year old son, Gabe.  Gabe is a piano prodigy who has been bounced around in life.  His father is a hit man who isn’t around much and he and his mother have moved around following piano teachers.  Peter and Rina take Gabe in and they must not only try and integrate him into their family, but find him both a piano teacher and a school.

Kellerman is brilliant at illuminating the twists and intricacies of normal family life.  Since I’ve been away from the series for awhile I was surprised to find the boys grown and out, baby Hannah a teenager, and Decker’s daughter about to have a baby.  I enjoyed the catch-up.  Kellerman is also quite a wonderful thriller writer, however, and the story of the hanged woman develops and deepens in complexity as the suspense builds throughout the book.  She’s been doing this for so long she makes it look easy, but this is the comfortable hand of a total pro at work.  It’s never a mistake to pick up a Kellerman novel, either by Faye or her talented husband.  My only problem with the Kellermans (and they now have a son who writes) is that they take up so much shelf space!  When we opened 18 years ago this was not the case but they now claim two full shelves in both the new and the used section.  That’s a lot of good reading in one concentrated space.

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