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Twisted    by Jonathan Kellerman order for
by Jonathan Kellerman
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This police procedural stars Hollywood homicide detective Petra Connor, who worked with psychologist Alex Delaware in A Cold Heart (note that Delaware does not appear in this mystery).

Despite a high success rate in solving cases, Petra is unappreciated by her mysoginistic boss, Schoelkopf. Her love life (in the form of ex-partner Eric Stahl) is mostly absent in the story, since Eric is out of the country on shadowy Homeland Security business, though he does drop in to provide badly needed backup at the grand finale. Petra takes on two cases, one assigned to her and one under the table. The first involves a bloodbath at the Paradiso Club, with four teens massacred and no motivation in sight. Petra concentrates on the identity of one of the victims, a Hispanic girl in pink sneakers, and on a couple of uneasy witnesses, especially the one who gives her a false address.

Schoelkopf also assigns Petra the task of babysitting a young genius of an intern, 'Brain Boy' Isaac Gomez. From a poor family in a high-crime neighborhood, Isaac has led what he feels is a double life - his private school's 'emerald playing fields by day, by night the burp of gunfire and screams and static-scratchy salsa outside the wondow of the closet-sized bedroom he shared with his brothers.' Now he's a Ph.D. student researching LA homicide patterns. Isaac has turned up a series of seemingly unrelated murders, which all occurred on the same date, and with the same method (bludgeoning from behind), though with very different victims. Dubious at first, Petra gradually comes to believe that Isaac has uncovered a twisted serial killer, who's still active.

Petra investigates both homicides, helped occasionally by Isaac, and eventually by Eric. Of course, the author throws additional complications into the plot - involvement with a local low-life, and a Mrs. Robinson of a librarian for Isaac, and trouble over cutting corners on the job for Petra. It makes for an absorbing read, and a good mystery (the serial killer's identity was a well handled surprise). Though Petra Connor is an engaging character and leads the investigation, it's Isaac who steals the show in Twisted - I hope that Kellerman will write both characters into more novels.

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