ONE WILD PARTY. FOUR COUNTS OF MURDER.
A mansion in Beverly Hills is leased out to host an event wild enough to herald the end of days.
The next day there isn’t a living soul to be seen.
But in the driveway sits a super-stretch limo, unlocked, with four bodies inside it. Nothing links the victims together. Each has been killed in a different way.
Now it’s up to brilliant psychologist Alex Delware and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis to begin their grisliest and most baffling case yet.
As they struggle to make sense of the mass slaying, they will be forced to confront a level of evil that nothing can prepare them for.
The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman is complex crime fiction that investigates five victims found in a chauffeur car in the backyard of a rental mansion, with no solid connection between any of them.
Jonathan Kellerman is skilled at presenting a unique premise and crime scene, and drawing the reader in without giving too much away. I was swept up in the misery and truly couldn’t guess the killer; I found myself surprised by the twists of the novel. There are enough clues laid down that make the killer plausible, but not too many that you can guess the character. That’s really hard to accomplish in crime fiction.
There were many layers to the crime — the five victims who, in the first instance, don’t seem to have a connection with each other, and also the significance of the Beverley Hills rental property where their bodies were found. Kellerman weaves through each complexity with appropriate pacing and attention, so the reader doesn’t feel too overwhelmed with how quickly the plot is moving.
“Mary Jane Huralnik, fifty-nine years old. Much younger than I’d thought. She’d looked elderly for a decade of progressively sadder mug shots. No felony arrests but plenty of misdemeanours up and down the state over a thirty-year period.”
Whilst the premise and the crime are intriguing and will interest readers, there are too many players involved for the storyline to be succinct and easy to follow.
Firstly, there are two main detectives and five victims. After the first few chapters, I started mistaking the victims for each other and couldn’t keep track of who was who. And for each victim, there was a family member or two being interviewed, a suspect or two, and then eventually we get to a convoluted conclusion regarding the culprit.
Whilst I found the conclusion surprising and satisfying, it was also very complex and messy and hard to understand, even for a seasoned crime reader.
“Nothing remotely nasty in either woman’s background. Perfect driving record for McGann’s five-year-old Nissan Sentra, Bauer had gotten a few speeding tickets in her Porsche Panamera GTS. The 101 North. Heading home in a hurry.”
What lets this book down is its complete lack of prose or internal monologue. The book is 99% dialogue, and even in a crime book that’s too much. I got no real sense of the detectives’ personalities or their state of mind, particularly the protagonist Alex Delaware.
The book is written in first person, and yet, there was no voice. There were no emotions or thoughts, it was just dialogue and action and when there are five victims, even that gets confusing at times. Truthfully, I felt the writing was really weak. The crime is interesting, and the pacing is well down, but the writing lacks any voice or characterisation. Kellerman just moves through the motions of a crime story without any real depth or care for the characters and their development.
“Nothing on knife-attack victim Contessa Welles but the computer was more than happy to tell me who owned the house on Clearwater.”
People who read crime novels and only crime novels? They’ll love this. It’s all about the plot and procedure and plot and procedure, and, more plot. But people who dip in and out of crime like me? People who are also looking for some depth to the characters? Maybe skip this one.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Museum of Desire
Penguin Random House Publishers