Over the past few weeks, I’ve been searching for a gripping thriller that’s engaging and fast-paced. I think I’ve found it in Jonathan Kellerman’s The Museum Of Desire.
The novel is the next in the author’s series about psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis. The pair are thrown together again Milo calls Alex to assist with a gruesome discovery outside a hired party house. A garish white limo is filled with the bodies of four individuals, with seemingly no connection to one another. They’re posed in a gruesome fashion, which is why the psychiatrist is bought in to take a closer look.
An initial search into the victims proves challenging, as all of them are from completely different backgrounds and seem to have no connection to one another. They also don’t seem to have any connection the house outside which they’re parked. The detectives have to delve deep into the murky worlds of sex, art and philanthropy in their quest to uncover the truth and find the fiend behind this horrific scene.
When I first started the novel, I was worried that it would be just another boilerplate crime caper, with a crime, then the standard, vaguely witty dialogue before a standoff ensues.
However, Kellerman delivers a coup de grace fairly quickly, with revelations that the initial crime scene was staged. As the two protagonists and the police detective team start their investigations, the body count rises but evidence stalls. Some small nuggets of information follow, leading to suspects, but with a lack of information on motive and no clear view on who the main victim was, it’s clear that the team has lots of leads to explore and clues to uncover.
The dialogue is witty and engaging, bringing to mind a hardboiled crime novel, set in the modern age. The story certainly can get a little gruesome and graphic, so this book isn’t for the fainthearted. However, Kellerman does tow the line between gratuitous, excessive descriptions of gore and an enticing glimpse into murder and mayhem, meaning that fans of fast-paced, action-packed police procedurals will love it.
I have a couple of little niggles with this novel, specifically the plot. The first is that, at the start, when the team arrives on the scene and sees the staged production that is the crime scene, the team misses a crucial trick. Blood is poured over the legs of the victims, but the detectives don’t think that it could be a kneecapping. Instead, they see the blood for the staging that it is, which seems like a missed trick.
Additionally, I’m a little concerned that the case is solved by sheer luck. I won’t spoil the plot, but the protagonists spend a lot of the novel conducting diligent police work, only to solve the crime through a small piece of dumb luck.
However, these are minor issues I had as someone who reads far too many police procedurals and thrillers for her own good. Other than that, I’m impressed by the pace of The Museum Of Desire. It’s both realistic about the tedious nature of a police investigation and selective with the details it selects so that the novel doesn’t bore the pants off readers, achieving a feat that J.K. Rowling’s recent release Troubled Blood miserably failed to pull off.
In all, The Museum Of Desire might feel like a quick airport read to start off with, but it soon builds into a gripping thriller that will haunt you for years to come. It’s a memorable crime fiction novel that resonates and keeps you gripped until the very last sentence.