Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Beast

Faye Kellerman excels at mixing horrific crimes with domestic bliss which still manages to be believable.  The Beast lays a nostalgic gauze over both, as old friends contemplate moving on.  Peter and Rina's children are grown (even their sort-of foster son Gabe Whitman is at Julliard or touring most of the time), as is Marge Dunn's daughter, and even Scott Oliver seems to have settled down.  This is where I expected the series to shift to Cindy Decker Kutiel, but more on that later.  

The Beast features Kellerman's weirdest crime.  A reclusive billionaire has died in a seedy apartment with a full grown tiger.  The tiger turns out to be a red herring; the late Hobart Penny was shot, not mauled, and Penny was a sexually violent sadist.  Kellerman gives us enough clues and misdirection to solve the mystery right before Decker arrests the culprit and manages (barely) to avoid the level of creepiness that led me to stop reading her husband's books.  The plot worked, but felt a bit forced at times, although the scenes at a barely legal animal preserve were interesting and engrossing.

Kellerman's domestic scenes, perhaps intentionally, are almost wistful.  Peter's tired of LA, tired of large crimes, but not ready to retire.  Marge Dunn's long distance relationship is moving towards marriage.  Both detectives are searching for jobs in smaller departments.  Those scenes feel like conversations with old friends, where not everything actually has to be said.  There's a sad tinge, though, to the conversations because the next book won't include the same team.   The domestic scenes aren't perfect - Gabe's scenes with his girlfriend Yasmine feel like a set up for a future plot, and I'm somewhat disappointed that Cindy's husband is entering medical school (he's a nurse practitioner, an important job that doesn't get enough popular notice or respect).  Overall, though, it's a slightly better than average installment in a series that has never slumped, with a nostalgic feel that makes me want to binge-read the series from the beginning.

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