I started reading Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarusmurder mysteries out of curiosity, after sampling from husbandJonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series. I've stuck with Faye and,for the most part, haven't been disappointed. I have beenparticularly intrigued by LAPD Lt. Decker's move from secularism tomodern Orthodoxy as he courted and then married the observant Rina.
In Kellerman's latest novel, "Serpent's Tooth," religious themesare not as paramount as in some of her previous novels, and thesuspense is sometimes less palpable. But her dialogue and story linekeep the pages turning.
The action begins with a mass murder at Estelle's, a trendy LosAngeles restaurant, that leaves 13 dead and 32 wounded. The primesuspect is a disgruntled former employee, Harlan Manz, who lies deadat the scene, presumably by his own hand. But ballistic analysisleads Decker and his colleagues to suspect a second shooter, probablylinked to Manz's sometime tennis partner, Jeanine Garrison, an avidhigh-society fund-raiser who stands to inherit millions now that herparents are among the dead at Estelle's. At one point, Decker's wife,Rina, defends her beleaguered husband against the gorgeous Jeanine'sunfounded sexual-harassment charges by explaining the sexualpractices of a devout Orthodox wife to police investigators. Thestory also offers another murder (Jeanine's alcohol-swillingbrother), a drug bust at an exclusive prep school and Decker'sfurious opposition to his daughter's intent to follow his path intopolice detective work. All in all, "Serpent's Tooth" is a goodpoolside read. -- Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer
"The Bonding of Isaac," by Joel Lurie Grishaver (Alef DesignGroup, $21.95)
Who else but Los Angeles' own Joel Grishaver could weave a NeilYoung album, a Greyhound bus conversation and James Cagney's "WhiteHeat" into a midrash on loneliness and completion? Subtitled "Storiesand Essays About Gender and Jewish Spirituality," this latestoffering from the author, educator and Torah Aura co-founder exploresthe psychological and spiritual differences between male and female,and how they can lead us to a greater understanding of the dynamicand complex nature of the Divine. It's a creatively assembled andhighly accessible collage of ideas culled from biblical and rabbinictexts, pop psychology, personal experience, contemporary culture andthe theater of the everyday Jewish classroom. True to Grishaver'sstyle, the book reads like a far-ranging, free-form conversation. Theoverall effect is like being invited to one of those fantasy dinnerparties people construct in their minds, the kind where friends,relatives and historical figures sit at the same table. "The Bondingof Isaac" is thought-provoking, soulful and often humorous. You'll beglad you were invited. -- Diane Arieff Zaga, ArtsEditor