In the first Alex Delaware novel, Dr. Morton Handler practiced a strange brand of psychiatry. Among his specialties were fraud, extortion, and sexual manipulation. Handler paid for his sins when he was brutally murdered in his luxurious Pacific Palisades apartment. The police have no leads, but they do have one possible witness: seven-year-old Melody Quinn. It's psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware's job to try to unlock the terrible secret buried in Melody's memory. But as the sinister shadows in the girl's mind begin to take shape, Alex discovers that the mystery touches a shocking incident in his own past. This connection is only the beginning, a single link in a 40-year-old conspiracy. And behind it lies an unspeakable evil that Alex Delaware must expose before it claims another innocent victim: Melody Quinn.
"An engrossing thriller.... this knockout of an entertainment is the kind of book which establishes a career in one stroke." (New York Newsday) "Suspenseful, neatly spun, fascinating." (Philadelphia Daily News) "Grab yourself a copy soon." (Los Angeles Times)
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That's it! This book did it. I'm going to revise my audiobook buying habits. Just prior to this classic adventure with Dr. Alex and Milo, I'd bought -- and listened to -- four or five new books written and narrated by authors and narrators unknown to me. Most weren't all that bad, but neither were any of them all that good. Mediocrity reigned. I'd find my mind drifting off, have to backtrack, sometimes more than once. Occasionally near the end of the book a character's name would come up and I'd realize I had no idea at all who that was.
Then I reverted to "When the Bough Breaks" by this much loved author. Understand, I've read not only all the Alex Delaware books but all the "stand alones" too, "Billy Straight" and the best of them all, "Butcher's Theater". But I hadn't read "Bough" for a very long time -- decades, probably. I was betting I wouldn't remember much of the specifics of the plot.
Starting in, I was captivated from the very first minute. Good to be reminded of how Alex and Milo met, good to see Robin in the early stages of that relationship, good to remember when her workshop was in 'downtown' Venice, when she was just getting started. Loved the descriptions of Venice -- not that way anymore, but it was, back then.
I love this book -- I've loved them all. I love characters; I love the clinical insights scattered throughout, even though I know nothing of psychology. I really love the unbelievably accurate and fascinating LA-area scenery Kellerman describes so perfectly, much of which I'm familiar with myself. In this book, Dr. Alex takes a drive through that "other" Malibu, the upland hills, away from the sea, the one where snakes -- both those that crawl and those who walk upright -- thrive, where affluence isn't the order of the day, but drugs and danger lurk behind every turn. I think one time I was lost driving up in that area myself -- listening to the description again made me shiver. It's remote up there -- another world entirely, and Kellerman uses it to great advantage.
Bottom line: this was an enormously enjoyable book. I never lost concentration, not for one moment. It was well narrated, even though the narrator mispronounces "Ventura", over and over. (It's 'ven TUR a', from the Spanish. NOT 'ven CHUR a'. It has no connection to the English 'venture' -- more likely from San Buenaventura, one of the local holies of long ago.) Still, Alexander Adams' low key narration is just about perfect, smooth, pleasant and easy to listen to.
So? I've changed my strategy. From now on, I'm staying away from new books by unknown authors. I'm reverting to tried and true, golden oldies written by authors I know and love. I'll wait for the new authors to prove themselves.... and until then, I'll buy only books I already know I'll love. ... And now I'm hunting more by Jonathan Kellerman.
When I started listening to this book, I was delighted that, finally, someone with an analytical eye was creating interesting and believable characters; of course, he is a psychologist, so that figures. However, the descriptions of sex scenes just left me cold. What had started out as an interesting and engrossing mystery got diverted into cheap, gratuitous soft porn that added nothing to the story and only killed off the momentum of the mystery. Too bad, as the topic of child exploitation and abuse is such a horrific ongoing problem in the world and does not need to be ignored while we are subjected to graphic descriptions of the protagonist's own sexual encounters; an uncomfortable juxtaposition under the circumstances. Despite that, I MIGHT listen to another one of his books, but probably free from the library rather than paying for it. We'll see....