Legendary L.A. psychologist-turned-novelist Kellerman raids real life when inventing the adventures of his psychologist sleuth, Dr. Alex Delaware, and some of the scariest parts of Survival of the Fittest are historical. Eugenicists lurk behind a murder spree Alex must solve, and he notes that the eugenics movement involved one elite U.S. college professor who advocated castration of ethnically lesser men, a forced sterilization ordered by Supreme Court Justice Holmes that Hitler used as a precedent to sterilize millions, and the pre-Holocaust coinage of the phrase "final solution."
Besides a truly horrifying theme, Survival of the Fittest boasts sharp but not arch dialogue; savvy psychological insights into stressed-out cops, suicides' loved ones, and malevolent therapists; and a sense of place so vivid that the Los Angeles Times has rated Kellerman the most evocative L.A. author since Raymond Chandler.
The plot's as twisty as a canyon road, and it's great fun to ride along with Dr. Alex and his sidekick, the burly, gay LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, as they dodge large red herrings and strive to find out why mildly handicapped kids are suffering "gentle strangulation" by killers who sign their handiwork with the mysterious letters DVLL, and what the devil this has to do with the high-IQ group Meta. Bonus for Kellerman fans: his Israeli serial killer catcher, Daniel Sharavi, star of his 1988 bestseller The Butcher's Theater, joins the sleuth team. But in the gory finale, Dr. Alex faces absolute evil all alone. --Tim Appelo [via]