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    Review of GONE by Jonathan Kellerman (see his website)


    Ballantine Books, March 2006

    When a pair of actors fakes their own abduction in an attempt to gain some attention, Dr. Alex Delaware is asked to perform a psychological analysis of the woman. But once the D.A.'s office agrees to plea out the case, it seems that Alex is finished. Until, that is, the woman's murdered body turns up. When his friend, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis is assigned the case and invites Alex along (Alex ia an authorized police assistant), Alex is happy to put his unhappy home life on hold and go out in search of clues.

    The two actors both attended an acting school managed by a never-was actress. It seems that the woman could have encouraged the stunt--but does that have anything to do with the deaths. When they see the attractive people who attend the acting school (everyone in L.A. seems desperate to be discovered, to survive the brutal process that weeds out the wanna-bes and untalented), Milo and Alex recognize a perfect hunting ground for anyone who wants to stalk beautiful women like Michaela, Alex's former client. Acting on a hunch, Milo searches for other beautiful actresses who disappeared and detects a pattern.

    The list of suspects starts to grow. Could it be the head of the school? Perhaps it was Michaela's partner in the stunt, a male actor who has disappeared. Perhaps it is a couple who also disappeared a couple of years earlier--when their dreams of success in Hollywood met reality. The known pervert who cleans at the acting school is certainly a candidate. Then there's the functioning autistic brother of the school teacher. Could he have decided to act out on his child-like fantasies.

    Alex's psychological training is put to the test as he tries to make sense of the killings. The beautiful women form a kind of logic, but if the older couple aren't the killers, how do they fit the pattern? Meanwhile, Alex is stalked by an angry fellow psychologist and the two beautiful women whom Alex has recently had affairs with circle around, trying to decide if either (or both) of them want to come back into his life.

    Author Jonathan Kellerman (see more reviews of novels by Kellerman) invariably writes a compelling and psychologically deep mystery and GONE is no exception. Although the victims here are Hollywood hopefuls rather than the young children who populated many of his earlier books, Kellerman involves the reader in their lives and in the fatal dream that Hollywood becomes for so many of them.

    Experienced mystery readers will have no problem guessing the killer's identity, but getting there is definitely where the enjoyment is. Kellerman's strong writing and fascinating, if almost universally tragic, characters propelled me through the story. I did think that some of the personal side of the story (Delaware's relationship with the beautiful Allison and the beautiful Robin) detracted, rather than added to the story. Still, GONE is a hard book to put down. I'm happy to recommend it.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 8/12/06

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