It's a story tailor-made for the nightly news: Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand, young lovers and fellow acting students, vanish on the way home from a rehearsal. Three days later, the two of them are found in the remote mountains of Malibu, battered and terrified after a harrowing ordeal at the hands of a sadistic abductor. The details of the nightmarish event are shocking and brutal: The couple was carjacked at gunpoint by a masked assailant and subjected to a horrific regimen of confinement, starvation, and assault.
But before long, doubts arise about the couple's story, and as forensic details unfold, the abduction is exposed as a hoax. Charged as criminals themselves, the aspiring actors claim emotional problems, and the court orders psychological evaluation for both.
Michaela is examined by Alex Delaware, who finds that her claims of depression and stress ring true enough. But they don't explain her lies, and Alex is certain that there are hidden layers in this sordid psychodrama that even he hasn't been able to penetrate.
Nevertheless, the case is closed, only to be violently reopened when Michaela is savagely murdered. When the police look for Dylan, they find that he's gone. Is he the killer or a victim himself? Casting their dragnet into the murkiest corners of L.A., Delaware and Sturgis unearth more questions than answers, including a host of eerily identical killings. What really happened to the couple who cried wolf? And what bizarre and brutal epidemic is infecting the city with terror, madness, and sudden, twisted death?
"The author's ability to convey the unrelenting sadness of his characters' lives and his deep psychological insights will satisfy those looking for more than mere thrills." (Publishers Weekly)
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Good but not great...
You like or dislike the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman, most of the story is made of long interviews and research by Alex and Milo, this one in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles acting classes and performance art, a trap for the many hopefuls who come to the city of dreams to make a career. Especially toward the end this book has more action than usual but until then it is interview after interview to reveal the ugly truth. I must admit: I like it very much. Kellerman gives you just as much information as he wants to reveal and keeps you guessing. His dialogue is real and lifelike. No big surprises in this one but I like the series and I never encountered a dud. Even Alex on-off partner Robin is tolerable but I hope Delaware will shag up one day with the female psychologist.
John Rubinstein has become my favorite reader for this series. He does not 'act' the different characters but just uses his considerable skills as a reader. Because the books are set in southern California, we meet characters from many different ethic backgrounds and social classes. Rubinstein reads they perfectly without turning them into caricatures or 'types'. It is like hearing a full staged radio play without any exaggeration.