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Stone Kiss (Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus) Hardcover – July 30, 2002
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Family business can be deadly, as Peter Decker discovers in Kellerman's latest thriller starring the L.A. police lieutenant and his wife, Rina Lazarus. Decker's half-brother Jonathan, a New York rabbi, asks for help when his wife's brother Ephraim Leiber is slain execution-style in a seedy New York hotel room, and the victim's teenage niece Shayndie, who may have witnessed her uncle's murder, disappears. But it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is as eager for Decker's assistance as Jonathan--not the New York City cops, not the missing girl's parents, and not the police chief in the upstate town of Quinton, where the Liebers live in a tightly knit Orthodox Jewish enclave. Despite these roadblocks, the ever resourceful Decker manages to locate Shayndie in the last place one might expect to find a devout, gently raised 15-year old girl--the heavily guarded Manhattan apartment of Chris Donatti, a Mob-connected criminal with whom Peter has a complicated history. But when Shayndie runs away from Donatti's loft and turns up dead a few days later, Decker's search for her killer uncovers a deadly family secret that puts his life--and Rina's--in jeopardy. As usual in this outstanding series, Kellerman's pacing is flawless, her plotting ingenious, and her deep understanding of human nature reconfirmed. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Raw. Brutal. Ugly. And, of course, riveting. L.A. homicide detective Peter Decker, an orthodox Jew, answers a call for help from his half-brother, Jonathan, in this 14th tale (after 2001's The Forgotten) from bestseller Kellerman. Ephraim Lieber, Jonathan's brother-in-law, has been found murdered in a seedy Manhattan hotel. Ephraim's 15-year-old niece, Shaynda, who was supposed to be with him, is missing. Reluctantly, Peter agrees to fly to New York to assess the situation, advise the family and perhaps consult with the police investigating the crime. Wife Rina and daughter Hannah accompany him to make the trip something of a vacation as well. The bare questions of the case are difficult and delicate enough (had Ephraim, a recovering drug addict, backslid? was his relationship with Shaynda abusive? what part did other family relationships play?). Peter is quickly caught up in a desperate attempt to find and save the girl while battling an intransigent family, unfamiliar territory and reckless killers. Worse, his best ally in this impossible situation is Chris Donatti, first encountered in Justice (1995), a psychotic, mob-connected killer and maker of pornographic films. Whether Kellerman is depicting the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community or a pornographer's studio, she is utterly convincing. Amid the wreckage of lives taken or thrown away, Kellerman's heroes find glimmers of hope and enough moral ambiguity to make even her most evil villain look less than totally black.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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But, the actual mystery part of the story was buried under a lot of confusing circumstances and way too many characters. Since, the story takes place somewhere other than Peter's normal beat, the majority of the characters were new to us. Too many new people were included. There were lots and lots of relatives - half brothers and sisters, Peter's biological mother, parents of Rina's dead husband, Peter's adopted brother, Peter's adoptive parents plus a lot of in-laws of some branch of the family. There were new characters of police officers of various New York towns and several characters from previous Faye Kellerman novels. I want a story to be deep and interesting, but these new people were too much trouble to try to keep straight.
I enjoy the Jewish aspect and perspective of these books. It really is an education for me. But, in this book, the Jewish names, nicknames, customs, language and rituals really overwhelmed the mystery part of the story. A lot of the characters were called by their given name in one sentence and then were called by a nickname in the next sentence. As many of these characters were new, it took me a while to figure out that a lot of them had 2 names - a regular one and a nickname. Faye Kellerman could have helped us as readers if she would have some how explained or indicated that many of her characters had nicknames. For quite a while, I thought there were even more new people than there actually were. I finally figured out that more than one name was being used to denote the same person.
Then there was the problem with the point of view from which the story was written changing in the middle of the book with no warning or reason. All of a sudden, the story is written in the first person, but I had no idea who this person was who was saying these things. It took a while to figure out that the "speaker" was the girlfriend of a character that appeared in an earlier Faye Kellerman novel. The change to her "first person" point of view made no sense and was extremely confusing to the reader.
When I first started this novel, I had high hopes and felt it would be a really good read. But, it could not keep and maintain my interest for very long. By the end of the book, (I think) the mystery was solved. But, from what I could gather, the bad guys won quite a bit and most of what actually happened was covered up. I think in the final chapter, a bad guy (who got away with many crimes) killed someone else. The last several chapters were way too confusing to really make a lot of sense. It was a disappointing book that started out looking a lot better than it ended.
Kellerman has moved Decker to the Big Apple to help family before; but this one's a stretch. He's there to help his half-brother Jonathan's family find Jon's neice -- a girl by the name of Shayndie Lieber (whose brief appearance does nothing to make her character believable!) Decker's dealing with ultra-Orthodox Jews, and, unfortunately, there is little positive about the sect he tries to help, and far too much detail in this plot. Although it is the primary plot, it grows boring, and the reader turns to the evolving clash between Decker and Donatti, who is surprisingly involved on the fringes of Shayndie's disappearance.
Over the top, as well, are the tales of Rina and her endless quest for shopping in the Big Apple - and the contrived plot of his staying in New York, well past the time he should have gone south with her. Weaving in a relationship between Rina and Donatti didn't help the novel, it hurt.
I still love this series, and love to explore what I can learn about the Jewish faith from Kellerman's characters. But Peter's a homicide Lieutenant in southern California....and there should be many, many untold stories to be resolved there, surrounded by the interesting people in his squad.
Things that saved 3 stars, other than Donatti were the amount of time Kellerman spent fleshing out the character of Randy, Decker's real brother...and I couldn't help but enjoy the twist at the end of the novel on another former Kellerman villain...Steven Gilbert. Enough said!
Wait for the paperback, or go to the library for this one!