The Hunt: A Novel (Decker/Lazarus Novels, 27)
“The finale is happy enough for Decker and Rina—but not for everyone they care about. Kellerman throws a fine set of challenges into the genre, with this dark, painful, and cleverly paced mystery.”
Faye Kellerman’s long series of investigations featuring Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus comes to its end with The Hunt and a classic Kellerman finale, braided from two alternating story lines: Decker’s effort to close his final homicide case in Greenbury, New York, before he and Rina move to Israel, and the terrible circumstances around the often criminally inclined parents of this couple’s foster son Gabe.
First, a caution: Those traumatized by sexual abuse should avoid The Hunt. Gabe’s birth mother Teresa, beaten and with her younger son (child of her second marriage) kidnapped, gets potent help from her first husband Chris Donatti. But the price she pays for this alliance is described graphically, and it’s terrible—so is her struggle on how much love and loyalty she still wants to admit to, when it comes to Chris, a long-time high-end criminal and multimillionaire.
Because this matters very much to Gabe, Decker and Rina can’t help being concerned. But Decker, with his still insecure new partner Detective Tyler McAdams, is 100% involved in sorting out the strands of a homicide that involves a slashed body, a missing crime scene, tangled potential motives, and international escapes. So for most of the book, which pounds at a page-turning and punishing pace, Decker’s hunt for the killer never intersects with Chris’s efforts to retrieve Teresa’s five-year-old son, or with Teresa’s repeated sexual battery—accepted both for the sake of Chris’s necessary help, and because she’s still drawn to the man she’s loved since high school. Teresa, or Terry, admits:
“I was up around nine, having had over sixteen hours of sleep between war and sex. . . . I made myself coffee and then settled on his black leather couch to read, trying to keep my mind off Sanjay. If I thought about what happened, I’d sink into deep, muddy waters. I still had a daughter, and I just needed to stay afloat emotionally.”
Kellerman’s insistence that abuse and love can coexist and be redeemed is sometimes hard to swallow (even the verb “swallow” becomes freighted with multiple levels of pain, from Teresa’s smashed jaw to Chris’s demands). Although she portrays one version of why abusive partnerships continue, it probably doesn’t apply to most domestic violence situations, which become darker and more perilous across time, rather than balancing on honed edges of addiction, recovery, and power. Readers may need to take breaks (go for a walk, alternate with a happy book, skim sometimes) to make it through.
The finale is happy enough for Decker and Rina—but not for everyone they care about. Kellerman throws a fine set of challenges into the genre, with this dark, painful, and cleverly paced mystery.