Sacred and Profane
by Faye Kellerman
(Arbor House, 1987)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

Baptist police detective Peter Decker, deeply in love with Orthodox
Jewish widow Rina Lazarus, has decided to undergo the rigorous conversion
process, becoming very close to Rina’s two young sons in the meantime.  On a
Christmas-season camping trip with the boys, they stumble upon some badly
burned skeletons.  When examination reveals them to be teenage girls, Decker
-- the cop and the man -- determines to find the murderer.  Following the
trail to drugs and brutalizing sex, Decker works with the very worst that
life has to offer at the same time that he is searching ever deeper within
himself for his spirituality.  Tender and tough, beautiful and ugly, sacred
and profane, and simply wonderful.

 

Milk And Honey
by Faye Kellerman
(Morrow, 1990)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

Mrs. Kellerman is proving to be a better writer than her husband.
This third adventure of Los Angeles detective Peter Decker is reminiscent of
McBain in the superbly realistic dialog and the handling of multiple crimes.
Take a young child alone on the street in the middle of the night and
sprinkle blood all over her pajamas, add the gruesome slaying of a
bee-keeping family, slice up a hooker last seen servicing Decker’s army
friend, top off with some long hidden painful memories, and you have the
recipe for a top-notch mystery.  There’s a little in-joke about child
psychologists, and the vaguest of suggestions that Mr. and Mrs. K might
someday find a way to let Alex Delaware and Decker work together.

 

Day of Atonement
by Faye Kellerman
(Morrow, 1992)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

The bad news is that Kellerman, who has always been more of a crime
novelist than a mystery writer, seems to be edging closer to "the
mainstream". The good news is that she still has a good eye for character
and a wonderful ear for dialog. (The other piece of bad news, which may not
bother anyone else, is that Kellerman has apparently never been in Brooklyn
in her life, and was working from a map prepared as an April Fool's joke. Or
else she was there a long time ago and thought she remembered it a lot
better than she really did. Nevertheless, although her geography is a
complete mess, she fairly accurately describes most of the neighborhoods she
finds herself in, so we still have some good news.)

Peter Decker has now married Rina Lazarus who, while an admirable
person with the best of intentions, is sometimes rather annoying. For their
honeymoon she has brought Peter and her two children by an earlier marriage
(husband deceased) to the Brooklyn home of her former in-laws for the High
Holy Days. Through the mother of all coincidences, Peter (a blood Jew
adopted at birth by a Baptist family)finds himself face to face with his
birth mother.  Thereafter we are treated to a moving examination of Peter’s
ambivalence, his mother’s love and guilt, and the confusion of the myriad
other blood relatives who sense something is wrong but don't know what.

The situation intensifies with the disappearance of his mother's
grandson, Peter’s blood nephew. Peter, the outsider with the inside track,
the professional, is compelled to coordinate the search.  In the process he
finds himself drawn ever-closer to his still unknowing half-siblings.

The remainder of the plot hinges on other greater and lesser
coincidences, which start to wear thin after a while. The plot is not the
strength of the book. Rather, its strength lies in the powerful evocation of
how lives are shaped by separation, lies and hypocrisy; and how, with faith
and love, forgiveness and reconciliations are possible.

 

The Quality Of Mercy
by Faye Kellerman
(Morrow, 1989)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

William Shakespeare is asked to look into the mysterious death of
his friend and mentor.  His travels involve him with Rebecca Lopez (the real
hero of this story), the daughter of a royal physician (who was a real
historical figure).  The Lopez family is from Spain -- conversos, or secret
Jews who outwardly pose as members of the Church of England.  Their efforts
to smuggle other Jews out Spain put them in a  potentially deadly position
between King Philip of Spain and Elizabeth I (who is being urged to war with
Spain by Lord Essex).  Shakespeare falls in love with Rebecca and becomes
involved in the family’s efforts, finding his murderer along the way, as
well as finding the basis for one of his most famous plays.  Not at all the
courtly ladies and gents of yore, but rather an often brutally graphic
picture of life in Elizabethan England.  Less of a murder mystery (although
there is a murder, and it is solved by some detection) than an
action/intrigue adventure, it is also a bit of a literary mystery and a
great deal of some rousingly fun history.