Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman

Billy Straight is a young kid on the run. He heads for Los Angeles and while living on the streets witnesses a murder. What is interesting about this book is the insight that Kellerman, a former child psychologist, brings to Billy. The choices that Billy makes, like to leave his family or to live on his own rather than with other runaways, seem believable. Billy runs into people who want to help him as well as those who want to take advantage of him and it becomes easier to understand why he just wants to be left alone.

The police trying to solve the murder eventually come to realize they are hunting for a 12-year-old as their witness. Petra Conner, a young LAPD detective, is a well-developed character and I wish she appeared in more of Kellerman’s novels. The frustration of trying to solve this high profile case, which involves an actor and the crazy bureaucracy of the LAPD, are highlighted here. Petra can see that some bad decisions are being made in the handling of the case, but can’t do much to stop them.

Here’s Billy at the beach once he knows the police are looking for him, and that possibly the killer could be too: “It’s stupid to even be thinking of a plan. I have no future. Even if I survive for a few months a year, two years, so what? I’d still be a kid, no schooling, no money, no control over anything.” Billy’s despair and desires clearly come through. I think this is one of Kellerman’s best books as he really delves into the characters’ psyches.

Kellerman is well-known for his lengthy mystery series with psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis. The mix of police action and psychological speculation generally make for a good read. If you want to see what I think of his most recent book in this series, Compulsion, check out my review at Curled up with a Good Book.

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