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Sunstroke Hardcover – January 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kellerman is the son of well-known novelists Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, and if his debut is any indication, talent breeds true. Gloria Mendez—a 36-year-old secretary at a Los Angeles novelty item import business—is in love with her boss, Carl Perreira, though he has never reciprocated her romantic interest. Carl has gone on his annual vacation, and after leaving a garbled phone message on Gloria's answering machine, he disappears into Mexico's backcountry. Facing apathy from the police in Mexico and the U.S.—even after Carl is reported dead in a fiery car crash—Gloria heads south to retrieve his body. She soon finds herself enmeshed in a dangerous adventure hinging on the mystery of Carl's death (if he is indeed really dead), his real identity and the truthfulness of the young man who introduces himself as Carlos Perreira, Carl's son abandoned many years earlier. Gloria is dogged, resourceful and intelligent, but despite some sex and gunplay late in the game, the adventure is a bit too cool and cerebral to be a thriller and too literary to be a genre mystery. Many readers will enjoy the intrepid Gloria and her puzzle, but most will hope for a little more heat from this promising writer's next outing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Uncovering a secret life isn't a very original plot, but then again, neither is boy meets girl; it all depends on what the writer does with it. And in his extraordinarily self-assured debut novel, playwright Kellerman (son of Faye and Jonathan) shows that he could probably take us on a compelling journey to the water cooler. L.A. novelty-company secretary Gloria Mendez, in love with her boss, is heartbroken when he dies while on vacation in Mexico. No family comes forward, so she heads south to claim the body. In sun-bleached Aguas Vivas, a dead town whose only industry is its graveyard, she finds ashes and a suspicious-acting cop. As Kellerman teasingly plays pieces of the puzzle, Gloria soon learns that nearly everything about the man she longed for has been a mirage--and she learns a few things about herself, too. This tightly focused thriller features expertly drawn characters, vivid scenes, and simmering tension. If it never comes to a rolling boil, that's all right. There's plenty of heat here to justify the buzz. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (January 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399153306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399153303
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,833,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jesse Kellerman is the author of three previous novels, The Genius, Trouble, and Sunstroke. His plays have also won several awards, including the 2003 Princess Grace Award, given to America's most promising young playwright. He lives in California.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've read the previous reviews, which were interesting themselves in seeing different readers' takes on this book. It's slammed or lauded on its merits as a "thriller" in many cases.

I don't think this book falls into that genre. It seems to me to be more like the noir novels of the early fifties in many respects. It's certainly a character study of the lead protagonist (Gloria), and is quite effective as such. Much of the novel takes place in a fictional (I assume) location in Mexico known as Aguas Vivas and its environs, and is very effectively drawn as a haunting and deserted landscape whose few denizens are memorable characters. Think "Bad Day at Black Rock", or "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

This isn't a classic whodunnit, though there are elements of that, and the search for the truth of the disappearance of her boss (Carl) certainly animates Gloria's quest.

But this novel is hard to pigeonhole. It's very stylistic. The dialogue is sometimes very sharp, often witty, yet sometimes vague; reflective of how real conversations between strangers often transpire. But you really need to keep in mind that this book is character-driven, as opposed to plot-driven.

There is a mystery here that is solved by the end of the book, but the pacing is leisurely yet still engaging because of the sharply drawn characters and settings.

This book may not be for everyone. I enjoyed it, and I think Kellerman shows some real promise.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Laar on March 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I, like many of the other reviewers, had high hopes when I bought this book. Ultimately it felt contrived. As though he wanted to use every idea he ever had for a clever turn of phrase in one book. Sometimes I could only roll my eyes as I was reading some of the metaphors. I didn't care about Gloria. In the end her character didn't make sense anymore and I was just glad I had finished reading the book so that I could read another perhaps more interesting and satisfying one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jesse Kellerman delivers a debut as close to flawless as I've seen in a long time -- perhaps not since the first Lisa Scottoline, Everywhere that Mary Went.

Three-dimensional characters.

Plot twists that actually take you by surprise but that seem logical and connected.

Clues for the reader as well as the characters (he plays fair).

Scenes vividly described .

No loose ends left hanging

Smooth writing that keeps pages turning

A chronology that's easy to follow

What more do we want?

The supporting characters -- Gloria's best friend, Gloria's ex-husband and the LA detectives -- were somewhat sketchy. But that's okay: they're in background.

I had no trouble believing the characters or the plot. And I wish I'd had this novel last week, for a long plane ride. It's been awhile since I could get so caught up in a story.

So...what's next from this author? I'm waiting.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William Lenderking on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jesse Kellerman's debut novel has been hypd excessively, but it simply doesn't deliver. The characters are dull and uninteresting; all the secondary characters, such as policemen, clerks, waitresses, officials, and ordinary people, are described the same way and portrayed as mendacious oafs, lazy, greedy and corrupt. Attempts at humor or insight are flat and dull. The writing strives to be fresh but is merely forced and klunky. ("They looked gutted, as though they'd been forced to chase a pile of laxatives with Drano martinis." p. 144) It gets tiresome, especially because the main characters plod their way through an unoriginal plot, full of pages and pages of droning flashbacks and tired narrative. The book desperately needs some sharp editing; editors are credited but they were asleep on the job. The length could be reduced by half without any loss and possibly some gain.

Overall, the story reads as though it came fresh out of a creative writing class, with the writer trying to press all the right buttons but unable to say anything fresh or original. Mr. Kellerman certainly has promise, but let him learn his craft better before inflicting another overblown "thriller" on the public.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is a blessing and a curse to be the offspring of famous parents. Accordingly, let's get the issue out of the way right now: yes indeed, Jesse Kellerman is the son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman. Jesse already has made his own mark, being better known at this point as a playwright than as an author. That may change, however, given the strength of his debut novel.

SUNSTROKE is one of those books that defies proper characterization. Does it have elements of mystery and suspense? Yes, it does. Yet it meanders and slips and slides in and out of those genres, providing an episodic character study set against the background of Mexico, in an unsettling village where there are two rules: 1) there are no rules; and 2) the rules keep changing.

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Gloria Mendez, a thirty-something secretary who is quietly and hopelessly in love with Carl Perreira, her boss of a decade or so. Perreira, a pleasant but enigmatic loner, has never given her cause to hope; Mendez's desire for something other than an unrequited love comes to an end when Perreira disappears while on vacation in Mexico. His last contact with her was a cryptic, garbled cell phone message about an accident.

Unable to elicit much interest in Perreira's disappearance, Mendez goes to Mexico with the intent of finding him at best, or determining his fate at worst; she finds much more than she expected. The man she has come to love from afar has a surprising past, one that collides with the present and will affect the lives of people beyond the missing Perreira. The reader though ultimately learns more about Mendez than her missing boyfriend.

Kellerman doesn't exhibit sympathy here so much as a remarkable and touching empathy for Mendez, a Hispanic woman.
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