A Measure of Darkness
This latest title from Jesse and Jonathan Kellerman is not so much a psychological study into a killer’s mind, but rather a depiction of how the process of persistence, attention to detail and diligence proves triumphant when catching a killer.
Deputy Coroner Clay Edison is a considerate man who exercises “patience and diplomacy” on the job. Yet his tenacity and sheer determination to see a case, his or otherwise, to the end has earned him one job suspension and the nickname “the barnacle”. In this, the protagonist’s second outing, we see the compassionate coroner particularly affected by the lonely figure of a Jane Doe, one of six casualties in the aftermath of a house party turned violent, and the painstaking methods he takes to ensure that the anonymous woman is identified and her assailant brought to justice.
Rich on detail and character study as opposed to gratuitous violence or excessive bloodshed, the Kellermans take the reader into Edison’s world, complete with all of the idiosyncrasies and regularities of his professional and personal life. We see the sensitivity and respect he has for the deceased, including a transsexual woman wearing white angel wings who he’s determined to see buried with dignity. It’s a plot that doesn’t particularly speed along or feel hurried, yet maintains pace and intrigue as Edison painstakingly uncovers identities and locates the decedents’ families and friends.
The dialogue is often sharp and snappy, fluctuating between the technically detailed and very specific, to the conversations and colloquialisms of family life and colleagues at work ( the coroners refer to themselves as “the meat people”). As a result, we see a man who maintains exceptional precision and perception at work, but who is less than successful in the area of gift- buying and his girlfriend’s personal taste.
This is a crime thriller with a current agenda: a commentary on gentrification, the digital age and our violent world (“young people are disproportionately likely to die of violence”) and the helplessness of not being able to stop it (“deep down, we know we’re powerless). Powerless, yes. But always benevolent.