When the Bough Breaks - Jonathan Kellerman

Book: When the Bough Breaks
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Publisher: Bantam
448 pages
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm a little torn about this book. This was the choice for my real life book club last month (It's called Thrill Me on Meetup.com) and I was the one that actually suggested a Jonathan Kellerman book. We always try to read an author none of us have read, and he fit the criteria. Our group leader, Amy, was a little hesitant to choose it because it was written in the 1980s so it was obviously going to be dated (those pesky cell phones and computers have really changed how thriller novels work), but we decided to go with it anyway. Why am I torn about the book? Well, I only gave it 3.5 of 5 stars which may make you think I didn't like it, but I actually did. Here's why I only gave it 3.5 stars:

Alex Delaware is a child psychologist who burned out after a particularly difficult case where a group of children were molested by the husband of a woman that ran a daycare. Even though he has left his practice, he remains friends with Milo, a detective on the L.A. police force. When a terrible murder is committed in an apartment complex, the only witness to the murder is a young girl and Milo calls on Alex to help solve the case. 

The book was a quick read and interesting throughout. There were quite a few twists and turns in the book that kept me interested, and I will definitely try another Alex Delaware novel because overall it was enjoyable. The main thing that bothered me was the frankness about child molestation. Yes, I know it happens and I know it's vulgar and ugly, but there were some conversations in the book that made my stomach turn. I consider myself pretty hard to gross out, but these conversations definitely reduced my enjoyment of the book. I am not sure if child molesters really talk the way they did, but it wasn't outside the realm of possibility which gave a realness to the story that was a little difficult for me to read.

I also felt like the story came together a little too neatly and things just fell into place for Alex Delaware. The guy had no experience in detective work, but (and I don't feel like this is too much of a spoiler since the series is named after Alex Delaware) he is just a fantastic detective that knows where to look and how to find things out. I also felt there was a lack of character development with the little girl in the book. I figured with Delware being a child psychologist the book would feature the girl more than it did. 

Other than these things, the book was a really good thriller. There were some terrific scenes in the book that had me almost cheering. Everyone in my group seemed to like it, and we all said we would read another of his books. I won't say it's a masterpiece of fiction, but it's a nice way to spend a few days if you are wanting to read a little bit of mystery and a little bit of thrills.


Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm impressed that you proceeded forward to read a thriller written in the '80s! Normally I shy away from them, too -- I read Dan Brown's Digital Fortress set in the mid '90s, and I kept thinking "he's just texting! What's so incredible about that?!" Then I realized when it was published and made a decision to stay away from thrillers written more than 5 years before! :)

I can't handle any books that talk about child molestation though, so I might have to skip this one.

Carin B. said...

You know...I didn't think the 80s stuff was so bad since I lived through the 80s. I remember what it was like to look through a card catalog, use a pay phone, a rotary phone, and all those other useless contraptions now (although a pay phone I still use occasionally when I travel overseas since I don't have international calling on my cell phone). I just rolled with it. The Tomb is a book I reviewed not long ago that was written in the 80s and F. Paul Wilson actually updated it for current times when they republished it. I thought that was interesting.

Yeah, the child molestation stuff was really hard for me to read. It wasn't particularly graphic in any sense of the word, but the way the molesters talked about it was stomach churning (at least to me--maybe I'm just sensitive to kids being violated and being so vulnerable). I was the only one in my group that was really turned off by that. I think the language was pretty real so in that sense if someone is looking for a realistic portrayal of the way child predators talk, I would imagine this is a good fiction book to read. I hope his other stuff isn't all about child molestation though. It was too much for me.

Scrabblequeen said...

Boy, I understand how you feel. Sometimes a book can be "good" while being not altogether enjoyable, for one reason or another. Congrats on sticking it out.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm right there with you on living through the '80s -- I remember when we got our first cordless phone and I walked all the way out into the middle of the street from our house just to see what the range on it was! :) For some reason, when it comes to technology, I just don't like to read a novel that is dated -- but, I could have been ruined by some of the books I selected over the years, which really could be the source!

Usually, I can handle all sorts of graphic dialogue or scenes, but I have to draw the line at anything dealing with a child -- I just can't handle it at all, and I guess part of me just wants to keep myself sheltered from all of that (even though I'm a grown adult!).

I'd be interested to hear about the other stories that you read from him.

Carin B. said...

@Scrabblequeen - The book was actually pretty good. It was the few moments of content that really hampered my enjoyment. It wasn't even described actual inappropriate behavior. It was just talk of what the kids were called by the molesters. Turned my stomach. Otherwise, it was a good book.

@Coffee and a Book Chick - That's really funny because I don't typically shy away from books that are technologically dated. I just say, "Oh...this took place a long time ago." The only book that kind of bothered me was The Bourne Identity in that respect, but I think only because they updated the movie and it was so good. I looked at the date it was published and really didn't have a problem with the technology component of the book. Other people in my group did though. They absolutely hated the book because it was so dated. I'll definitely review another Jonathan Kellerman at some point. I liked it but didn't think it was fantastic. Someone in my group said his wife, Faye Kellerman is a better writer so I might try her next.

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