Onyx reviews: The Conspiracy
Club by Jonathan Kellerman
The Conspiracy Club is Kellerman's first non-Delaware standalone novel since
Billy Straight and it is a breath of fresh air. Whenever Kellerman puts Delaware
aside, he seems to find new creative energy. Still, he doesn't stray far from
his tried-and-true characters.
Jeremy Carrier is a psychologist at a large hospital in an unspecified Midwest
City whose girlfriend Jocelyn was recently murdered. He is still grieving her
loss while simultaneously having to deal with the fact that the police still
consider him a prime suspect in her brutal death. He buries himself in his work,
at which he excels. He has an almost mystical ability to put patients about to
go into surgery or undergoing radical treatments at ease, a kind of facile
hypnosis that even he doesn't understand and which amazes him every time it
This physician can't heal himself, though. His parents were killed in a car
accident when he was young and his childhood was spent in foster homes. He lives
a solitary life outside of work, and even at the hospital he cherishes the
isolation provided after his department is moved to smaller quarters and he gets
a secluded office on a different floor from everyone else.
He shuns new connections. When a hospital pathologist, Arthur Chess, makes
overtures of friendship, Jeremy resists. He also deliberately ignores the
obvious interest expressed by attractive Dr. Angela Rios, a second year medical
resident at the hospital. Not in the mood for the mating game, he uses his
nebulous "schedule" to excuse himself from personal involvement.
As a psychologist, Jeremy has strong feelings about the nature of evil and the
criminal mind. When he expresses these feelings during an unguarded moment, he
catches the attention of a group of people who share his sentiments; people who
have all suffered great loss in their lives without receiving the satisfaction
of knowing the perpetrator had been caught and punished.
After he accepts an invitation to an elegant dinner with a group of older men
and women who have an interest in crime and punishment, Jeremy starts receiving
mysterious interdepartmental mailings, pieces of a puzzle that he didn't realize
existed. He has no idea who is sending him these obtuse messages or why. As with
the other recent tentative offerings of relationships, Jeremy refuses to play
along at first, but eventually his interest—and self-interest—is piqued.
He also decides to reciprocate Angela Rios' interest and the couple starts
dating, but Jeremy can't help but compare it to his relationship with Jocelyn.
He is reluctant to open up to his new lover about the things that mean the most
to him—his childhood, the murder and the mysterious clues being sent his way,
but their connection slowly grows into something intense and new for Jeremy.
Once he turns his attention to pursuing the mystery behind the clues he is being
sent, Jeremy begins to merge somewhat with Alex Delaware. He shares his
predecessor's flaw of recklessly throwing himself into danger without availing
himself of police assistance. Even when he has assembled enough information to
perhaps convince persistent Detective Doresh to consider an alternate
explanation for Jocelyn's murder, he goes it alone, threatening his new
relationships, his job and his life.
All in the name of dramatic tension, of course. If Jeremy let the police handle
matters, he wouldn't find himself in risky and threatening situations. He also
wouldn't find himself following the clues in the wrong direction.
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