The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel

Image of The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel
Release Date: 
February 5, 2019
Ballantine Books
Reviewed by: 

The Wedding Guest proves once again why this series has become the longest-running American crime series.”      

Any high society wedding can expect a crasher or two, but this unknown guest at the Rapfogel-Burdette nuptials managed to get herself drugged and then strangled. She’s a complete stranger to everyone. The groom’s party says she must be from the bride’s side; the bride’s people say the opposite. No one knows her, and all they can do is complain about the fact that she had the bad manners to get herself murdered at “Baby” Rapfogel’s wedding, thereby ruining the day for the bride.

Accompanying LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis in the investigation, psychologist Alex Delaware knows from the beginning this case is going to be a difficult one. Though eventually, the young lady is identified, the ID doesn’t help. In different venues, she’s known by different names, and the deeper the investigation, the more contradictory and confusing it becomes.

If anyone was ever a riddle wrapped within an enigma, it’s the victim in this puzzler.

Is she Kimba or is she Kimmy—or perhaps she’s Suzanne? Coed putting herself through college by pole dancing, or stripper pretending to be a college student? All of the above or none of the above?

Milo’s complaint is a legitimate one: “I’ve a phantom who reinvented herself, aka just plain lied. Which explains why I haven’t been able to trace her. The ID could be useless along with everything else she’s told everyone. One step forward, a hundred thousand backward.”

Suspicion points to someone in the wedding party, but they’re all acting a little guilty. Narrowing the suspects to the groom and his less-than-cooperative little sister, a girl contemptuous of the world and everyone in it, Milo and Alex realize the more they dig, the more contradictory things are. When that breakthrough finally arrives, it’s not the one they expect. Abruptly the entire perplexing affair becomes even more convoluted as they realize they’re actually on the trail of a serial killer who takes his victims from the brightest of a university’s student body.

As with all Jonathan Kellerman novels, there are some good characterizations, from the superficiality of those in the wedding party, lamenting not at the tragedy of a young woman being viciously murdered even though she dared to have it happen at a wedding and therefore ruin the bride’s “special day.” Even the response of the bride when the case is solved, seemingly caring but with consideration actually shows a concern barely skin-deep. The depiction of sister-in-law Amanda Burdette’s is so precise, the reader will feel his hand itching to slap her.

There is little exploration into Alex and Milo’s personal lives in this one. Alex does go home from time to time where he gets a lesson in guitar strings from live-in love Robin and enjoys some affection as well as great meals, while gay Milo complains that people expect him and his partner to marry now that they can, while he sees no reason to.  Then it’s back to the investigation and the shock of realizing that everything is going in an completely unexpected direction.

This change in direction midway the story will be as surprising to the reader as it is to the detectives, and brings about a shocking, and ironic, ending. As the 34th Alex Delaware novel, The Wedding Guest proves once again why this series has become the longest-running American crime series.