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Jupiter's Bones: A Novel (Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus Novels) Hardcover – August 1, 1999
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Faye Kellerman's 11th Peter Decker-Rina Lazarus mystery takes police lieutenant Decker into the enclave of a Heaven's Gate-style pseudoscientific religious cult, the Order of the Rings of God. The cult's leader, a former world-class physicist who styles himself Jupiter, has died of an ungodlike combination of liquor and prescription drugs, but whether it was accident, suicide, or murder is suspiciously murky. The death is mysteriously reported by Jupiter's estranged daughter Europa, a scientist who has nothing to do with the cult, and when the police arrive on the scene, they find that Jupiter's followers, particularly his four unpleasantly ambitious personal attendants, range from uncooperative to downright hostile. Decker's suspicions kick into high gear when two other cult members go missing and another body turns up. But with the tense situation threatening to unravel as explosively as Jonestown or Waco, it's Marge, Decker's professional sidekick, who penetrates the cult's inner sanctum and effects a scary eleventh-hour rescue.
For Decker, as always, the mystery serves to offset the tempestuous Orthodox Jewish family life that he married into. Sammy, Rina's older son, wants to study in a politically unstable region of Israel, and Jake, the younger, is teetering on the edge of a most unorthodox social scene of girls, porn movies, and pot. Kellerman knows how to craft a compelling mystery, but it's the honesty of Decker's unique religious and family struggles that keeps mystery fans interested book after book. If you're new to this series, you'll want to begin at the beginning with The Ritual Bath. --Barrie Trinkle
From Publishers Weekly
In her 11th Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery (Moon Music, etc.), Kellerman develops the theme of parent-child relationships along two fronts. Before Father Jupiter became the head of a religious cult called the Order of the Rings of God, he was a renowned astrophysicist named Dr. Emil Euler Ganz. Though Jupiter has long been out of touch with his family, when he dies mysteriously his estranged daughter, Europa, becomes a pivotal help to LAPD detective Decker's investigation. Jupiter's death looks like suicideAuntil the autopsy reveals small amounts of arsenic in his body. Then two of the four remaining cult leaders are killed, prompting the cops to suspect that a serial killer is lurking among the group's members. When the police and FBI try to storm the cult's compound, Brother Bob, Jupiter's old attendant, wires the buildings and threatens to blow up everyone, leaving Decker to figure out how to save the lives of the compound's 96 children. Meanwhile, because of the pressures of the case, Decker is failing to give his two teenage stepsons the attention they need to weather the upheavals of adolescence. He relies on the help of his wife, Rina, to understand the rules of the boys' Jewish orthodox upbringing, but there are aspects of their lives he must take the time to find out on his own. Kellerman writes spine-tingling suspense and defines her characters well, but the scenes in which experts lecture the cops on physics and cult psychology are overlong and sometimes superfluous. Although the Decker/Lazarus family relationship strengthens in this novel, this is not the strongest of the series. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Bear in mind, please, I love this series. I read it as much for the stories of the relationship between Decker/Rina and Decker/Rest of the World as I do the mystery and drama. That being said, the cult of crazies and power-seekers in this book is a cookie-cutter motif with all the standard characters you'd expect from a "cult" and all of the bizarre rituals you might want to mock (which I find ironic, given the way that many people in the series - and out - see the rituals of Judaism and its sects) and all the fears about cults the media plays upon. The relationships between Rina and Decker and Decker and his children, the children and Rina, all seem to have hit a tired point as well. There isn't anything new or surprising.
It's possible that the predictable nature of some of the steps in ordinary relationships is part of the natural evolution of the characters, but if I wanted to experience that I don't need to read about it. It's dull.
Add in the feeling you get as you read that things aren't going to end well within the cult, as they usually don't, and the feeling that the relationships between the central characters are going to sort of muddle along without any big changes happening, and it isn't an interesting read.
Would I have skipped it, in hind-sight, knowing how I feel about the series as a whole? No. Was the writing well crafted? Yes. It's the actual story-telling that just falls short - this time. I'm looking forward to reading the next because I expect, and usually get, better.