Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

Have you ever read a thriller with absolutely no ah-ha moment at the end? Was it frustrating? I’ll bet. I read mysteries for the guessing game: who, what, where, when and why… the whole nine yards. Thrillers are the highlight of my summer. Nothing beats sitting by the pool with a paperback on a super sunny day, oversized sunglasses shading half my face, the sounds of splashing water in the background.

Obsession was an unplanned read. I was in the mood for something noncommittal, so I decided to pick this up when I found it in my apartment building laundry room library. After completing The Underneath, which threatened to drown me in a sea of my own tears, I needed something easy. From what I could recall from past reading experiences, Jonathan Kellerman is a good writer. His characters are believable (to a point) and follow a well-organized plot to its inevitable conclusion. No one is going to accuse Mr. Kellerman of failing to “get his ducks in a row” (as Patty would say).

Even more, Obsession is full of fabulous, witty dialogue; it’s a unique travelogue of Los Angeles. Petra Connor, Milo Sturgis and Dr. Alex Delaware are keen observers and their interactions reminded me of ridiculously comedic middle-aged versions of the Dawson’s Creek gang (minus the love triangle). This novel is full of rapid fire comebacks and improbably well-worded zingers. Sort of like the Gilmore Girls, this trio of highly verbal characters, ramble off cultural references so quickly that the reader might blink and miss it.

However, while exceptionally entertaining, dialogue couldn’t save this novel for two different reasons (including vague spoilers):

1. Every single character can’t be this witty. Witnesses, parents, significant others, suspects… none were immune to these precisely written, rapid-fire conversations. They all had attitude, which can get old. Robin talks like Alex, who talks like Kevin, who talks like Milo, who talks like Kyle, who talks like Myron, who talks like Mario… the list is endless. Every character, right down to the weird pornography executive, speaks the same way. However, despite all the tiresome repetition, I must tip my hat to Mr. Kellerman, who clearly has a penchant for really snappy dialogue. If he hasn’t considered scriptwriting already, he definitely should!

2. There is no ending. Well, let me clarify. There is no ending that you would expect from a thriller or a mystery. Yes, the bad guy is caught. Yes, there’s a tense shootout. But! The suspect barely changed throughout the novel. Once Kellerman set his narrative sights on one specific person, he didn’t waver once. Everything was wrapped up nicely. Aside from one minor “shocker” revealed on the last page, the reader didn’t expect anyone but one specific person to be the culprit. And that’s exactly what happened. No surprises. No moments of intrigue or mystery. The most interesting moment came when the cloyingly rich Mrs. Bedard got drunk and lost her shit, had a temper tantrum and was carted off by the police in handcuffs, slurring insults at anyone who’d listen. But this occurred at least a hundred pages before the official ending…

2 thoughts on “Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

  1. I honestly can’t remember whether I read this book. (If it’s been published recently, I haven’t). Kellerman was always sort of hit or miss for me. And I always feel cheated if, in a mystery, there is no “whodunnit” to keep me guessing.

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