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The Conspiracy Club    by Jonathan Kellerman order for
Conspiracy Club
by Jonathan Kellerman
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jonathan Kellerman is renowned for his hugely popular thrillers starring psychologist/sleuth Alex Delaware. The Conspiracy Club introduces a new and very rational hero, Dr. Jeremy Carrier, who works as a staff psychologist at the City General Hospital.

Jeremy grieves over the gruesome murder of his lover, Jocelyn Banks, a nurse at the hospital, and lives under the shadow of continuing suspicion by police investigators. Out of the blue, a fellow physician at the hospital, pathologist Dr. Arthur Chess, begins to make overtures, expressing interest in 'the genesis of very, very bad behavior', which Jeremy sums up as 'A cocktail of nature and nurture.' Why is Dr. Chess courting Jeremy, and does it relate to his girlfriend's murder?

Further 'Humpty Dumpty' killings - of hookers, whose wounds are consistent with those on Jocelyn's corpse - bring Detective Bob Doresh back on Jeremy's case. Dr. Chess invites Jeremy to a sumptuous dinner with an elderly group of associates, the 'CCC', whose words 'Expediency trumps virtue' stay with him long after he gives a talk on 'habitually violent criminals'. What is their interest, and who is sending Dr. Carrier research papers on disturbing topics such as laser scalpel applications?

Dr. Chess disappears, sending 'Traveling and learning' postcards from around the world, and Jeremy begins a new relationship with attractive young resident Angela Rios. Slowly, he puts together the information coming his way and under his nose, to develop theories about Jocelyn's killer, about other victims, and about Dr. Chess's motivations. Who is pulling Jeremy's strings and why? Are 'Sins of the fathers' involved? Kellerman keeps us guessing till very close to the action-packed ending.

The author's own background in psychology, and his experience in the hospital environment, give his thriller interest and depth. And the underlying exploration of the origins of extreme violent behaviors (that most of us find so incomprehensible) fascinates. It's another brilliant read, which looks like the beginning of an exciting new series by Jonathan Kellerman.

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