The Murderer's Daughter
A novel by Jonathan Kellerman
Book review by Jules Brenner
HarperCollins, released 8/18/15, 384 pages, $28.00
Return to list of books

This psychological crime thriller is about an unlucky girl and what she does with poor life chances and a mentality way above the norm. That Grace Blades' was born with such a gift challenges logic, given the trashy mother who killed her malicious father and then herself. But, the inventiveness of such a possibility inclines us to accept that DNA related to IQ can be found in unaccountable places.


In alternating chapters, Kellerman volleys between Grace's childhood making her way through the California foster care system in Los Angeles, and the chilly adult personality she becomes as a successful psychiatrist serving the mansioned clientele of Beverly Hills, CA. Kellerman's background as a clinical psychologist in this very territory doesn't go to waste in this horrific portrait.

One of Grace's coping mechanisms could be out of Jeff Lindsay's popular "Dexter." That key figure was an alien trying to appear to be a human. Grace, similarly, works her way through a risky life as a "foster" by saying and doing what she thinks people expect of her. Her conduct is too calculated to put us much at ease and we're mostly at an emotional distance while we remain interested in the mixed moral path she will follow. Which is not to say that the adult Grace picking up a man in a high-class watering hole after a trying day is immoral.

Yes, this very complex person isn't "bad." When she realizes, during her teenage years, that someone dear has been murdered out of pure sadism, it becomes the purpose of her life to make the killer pay for his perversion. In this, Grace gains our sympathy and respect for the difficulty of tracking down the vile sociopath with a cultish fortress of evil protecting him. But, then, he has the very relentless Grace and her astounding, mature intellect coming after him.

Psychologically speaking, the "will to survive in an ugly world" trope does seem a bit piled-on here, adding to a charge of feminist super-heroine fantasy (c'mon, moving and burying a huge dead man all by herself!). But despite the exaggerations for the sake of drama and cultural correctness, the psychopathy deriving from Kellerman's area of expertise will hold a reader's attention though, possibly, for slightly different reasons according to gender-related interests.

If you don't yet own The Murderer's Daughter and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.