Peter & Rina Decker

Faye Kellerman
Characters Created by FAYE KELLERMAN



REVIEWS
I originally wrote these for Amazon.com, but I may have added some spoilers here, so be warned

Cover 1. THE RITUAL BATH (1986)     [****]

A little heavy on the religion, but likable characters.

I love Jonathan Kellerman's books so much, I decided to check out the ones by his wife Faye. This is the first book in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series and I found it a little too heavy on the religion. Course, the whole thing centers around a rape in an Orthodox Jewish community, so religion is kind of central. I just hope the others in the series aren't quite so saturated. I like the characters, though, and kept reading to learn more about them.

Detective Peter Decker is overworked and overwhelmed by the difficult Foothill Rapist case, but when he gets called out to Jewtown, it turns out to be anything but routine. There has been a rape at the Yeshiva and Rina Lazarus has called it in. Now, in addition to his case load, Decker has to deal with the fact that he is incredibly attracted to Rina, but she is strictly orthodox and, even though she is attracted to him too, she can never have anything to do with a goy.

It's kind of exciting as Decker tries to pursue and protect Rina at the same time and I was somewhat amused by the way he finally catches the Foothill Rapist. Overall, I enjoyed it enough to want to go try some others in the series.


Cover 2. SACRED AND PROFANE (1987)     [****]

Better than the first book.

LAPD Detective Sergeant Peter Decker first met Rina Lazarus in The Ritual Bath when he was working a rape case at the Yeshiva - a sort of Jewish campus community where Rina has been teaching elementary school. They fell in love, but she is an Orthodox Jew and he is a Gentile, so it can't work, right? Well, they are trying to make it work in this second book of the series and I especially like the conflict between them. I mean, for a guy raised in a relatively loose society to just up and step into the strict regimen of Orthodox Judaism and have everything move smoothly would have been a cop-out of major proportions so I was glad to see the reality of the situation instead.

The book starts on Christmas Eve and Decker is out camping with Rina's two sons, Sam and Jake, when poor Sam finds the charred remains of two skeletal bodies, thus ending their holiday. To add insult to injury, the Foothills Division is short on Homicide detectives at the moment and Decker is given the case. Usually working Juvie and Sex Crimes, he hates Homicide. And this case is gruesome and particularly troublesome for Decker. The bodies have to be identified with dental records and one of them turns out to be a missing teenage girl - the same age as his own daughter, Cindy, as it turns out. The investigation leads Decker deep into the cesspool of perversion, kiddy porn and murder which begins to taint his personal life and increases the tension between himself and Rina.

I was somewhat surprised to see Decker as such a ruthless SOB. He roughs up suspects, harasses wealthy citizens behind his Captain's back, even slaps around a young prostitute. He also gets blind drunk and passes out on Rina's floor. (Kind of amusing, in a sad way). One thing I was curious about - I'd never heard the expression "ripped off" used as a euphemism for killed before. In my world, ripped off means robbed or cheated. Now, whacked is a word I know, but I thought only goombahs used it. (Ha ha) I had to laugh out loud when someone pulled a gun on Decker. The detective slammed the guy against a wall and said something like, "I can't believe you just tried to whack a police officer!"

Anyway, this book is well paced. Whenever I thought, hey, I'll finish this chapter and then go to bed, something too intriguing cropped up and I had to keep reading. The ending is a little sad, but not hopeless. I'll have to keep reading the series to find out what happens next with Decker and Rina and if you get started with these characters, you'll probably have to keep reading too.


Cover 3. MILK AND HONEY (1990)     [****]

Just keep getting better and better!

If each new installment of this series continues to surpass the one before it, we're gonna need more stars. This is the third entry in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus Series and I thoroughly enjoyed this one on all levels. The first one (The Ritual Bath) was, I thought, a little too heavy on the religion, although, the crime took place at the Yeshiva (Jewish School), so it was understandable. The second one (Sacred and Profane) was better, but still a little in your face with the religious stuff. This one, though, perfectly balances the religion and the mystery/crime plot - there was nothing to distract me.

The reason the religion enters into the series is because Rina is an Orthodox Jew, and very serious about it. Decker now knows that his biological parents were Jewish, but he was raised Baptist by his adoptive parents, so Rina's world is all new to him. He is determined to stick with his studies and convert to Orthodox Judaism - at first, mainly so he can marry Rina, but as he gets into it and learns more, his faith begins to offer some comfort for him in his life as an LAPD Police Detective. (His colleagues have begun calling him "Rabbi," much to his chagrin).

Anyway, this story starts with Decker finding a toddler wandering around alone one night in the middle of a new suburban community where no one will admit to ever having seen the little girl. She is so cute and friendly, that she captivates Decker and the fact that she was found wearing a blood-soaked sleeper makes this a potentially tragic case in the offing. Decker doggedly pursues it - after all, there is nothing for him to go home to, since Rina packed up and moved to New York - and he has no one else to blame, since it was he who suggested they needed breathing room. (But he didn't mean 3000 miles worth!)

While Decker hunts for the girl's parents (hoping to find them alive, but afraid they won't be), he also tries to help out an old Army buddy of his. He and Abel Atwater went through Basic together and then fought side-by-side in Vietnam together. Abe lost a leg (and something else more important to him, as you'll find out later in the book) in the war and has never come to terms with it - he's an embittered man who frequents prostitutes on a regular basis. He's in trouble now because one of those prostitutes has accused him of brutally raping, beating and stabbing her. He denies the whole thing. Decker wants to believe him, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he's not altogether sure the man his friend has become isn't capable. He is determined to find out, though, so he makes some discreet inquiries - something that could very well come back and bite him in the butt because a police detective isn't supposed to be working for the defense.

So, Decker is balancing all this while trying to get back together with Rina which makes things pretty tense all the way around. Lots of history for Decker in this one - we discover the defining moment of his life in Nam that shaped the man he is today. Even though he's a wee bit too perfect sometimes, Rabbi Schulman is one of my favorite characters (I often wonder if he is based on any one real person), and we see more into his past as well in this one. Good character development. I hope we see more of Atwater in the future - he's a very intriguing character too. There are plenty of tear-jerking moments as well as funny moments (the fight between Decker and Atwater is just hilarious!), so don't miss out on this one. (The background is laid out at the start, so you don't have to read the first two in order to enjoy this one, but why not go ahead and read them too?)


Cover 4. DAY OF ATONEMENT (1991)     [*****]


Cover 5. FALSE PROPHET (1992)     [*****]


Cover 6. GRIEVOUS SIN (1993)     [****]


Cover 7. SANCTUARY (1994)     [rate]


Cover 8. JUSTICE (1995)     [rate]


Cover 9. PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD (1996)     [rate]


Cover 10. SERPENT'S TOOTH (1997)     [rate]


Cover 11. JUPITER'S BONES (1999)     [rate]


Cover 12. STALKER (2000)     [rate]


Cover 13. THE FORGOTTEN (2001)     [****]

Read them in order.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book, but it was disconcerting seeing how much these characters have changed. I had only read the first three books in the series before picking up this one, which is, I think, #13. Decker is a Lieutenant now at a different division house (but his partner, Marge, followed him?) and he and Rina are married, have moved from the ranch, have a 7 year old child together - Cindy is now a cop, Sam is in Israel and Jacob is a dark, brooding (and evidently gorgeous) teen with a past I certainly missed. I don't think it's necessary to have read the previous books to understand what's going on here plotwise, but it sure would help to see the developement of this family. I strongly recommend you read them in order.

It's a compelling story, though, that draws in the reader. It starts with the small storefront temple at which the Deckers worship being visciously vandalized. The boy responsible has quite a story to tell and Decker believes he is sincere and works out a deal so Ernesto can receive psychotherapy instead of jail time. All well and good, right? Unfortunately, the situation explodes when both Ernesto and his therapist turn up murdered. What makes this case even more difficult for Decker to handle is that his wild-child stepson Jacob seems to be intimately involved with some of the suspects.

The underlying crime behind it all is a little lame, but the story and characters are intriguing enough that I didn't care. Decker watches other families go through hell as he realizes it could so easily have been one of his own kids involved in the mess and he struggles with his guilt over what he sees as his failings as a father while Jake struggles with his guilt over what he sees as his failings as a son. Meanwhile, Rina tries to come to terms with her husband's heavy work schedule and her son's dark secrets, trying not to snap at the former and snoop on the latter. There's a great scene where Decker protects Jake from a shooter in the woods and Jake is really jazzed on the danger. Tighter bonds are forged between father and son and that can't be bad.

There is a scene where Rina was at the airport to pick up Sammy and Decker thought it would be a good idea to have dinner ready when they got back, but the only thing he can cook is eggs and hotdogs. I had to laugh outloud because that's the only thing my own Dad can cook.


Cover 14. STONE KISS (2002)     [*****]

LOVED this one!!!

Wish I had an option to give this entry in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series 6 stars. I've been reading these out of order, which I do not recommend - it would help to see how this family grows and develops. There are some 10 or so installments to this series before this one that I haven't read yet, but I can't imagine any of them being better than this one. It's a total angst fest!

LAPD Homicide Detective Lieutenant Peter Decker gets a frantic call from his (half) brother in New York City. Jonathan's brother-in-law has been found murdered and the dead man's 15 year old neice is missing - can Decker help? Family means a heck of a lot to Decker, but what can he do? Act as liason between the family and the police? His lovely wife, Rina convinces him to go - if nothing else is accomplished, at least they can visit with her two sons Sam and Jake who both go to school in New York.

Decker is completely out of his element, though. He may be a good cop (and he really is), but New York may as well be a foreign country to an LA cop, especially as Jon's in-laws (the family affected by this tragedy) hate his guts and want nothing to do with him. (They may even be duplicitous in the crime). Novack, the detective in charge of the case, is a nice enough guy who is really working the case and doesn't mind Decker's input, but Decker has no connections in this city. Or does he?

A psycho hit-man named Christopher Donatti lives in New York and he and Decker have a past. If Donatti manages not to shoot Decker on sight, maybe he'll condescend to help out. I love this character! Donatti is a grade A stone cold psycho killer, but he is so darned fun! Completely unpredictable, he's just as liable to buy you a cup of coffee as to shoot you in the back - if not both. With this guy on his side and everyone else against him, Decker will be very lucky to get out of this one unscathed. But it's not just him in danger - his whole family may very well be at risk and Decker's frustration levels are on overload - even if he does survive this, he may never be the same.

My only complaint is the two small sections suddenly being told in a first person narrative by a minor character - it just seemed out of place and distracting. Otherwise, this is just non-stop angst and I've always been a sucker for angst. Don't miss this one!!


Cover 15. STREET DREAMS (2003)     [****]

Cindy isn't as great a character as her Dad.

This book is predominately about Cynthia Decker and is mostly told in the first person from her point of view. She's kind of a snooty brat, but has evidently been tempered by a traumatic experience on the job (from another book I haven't read yet - I'm telling you, read them in order!)

Anyway, Cindy is a second year rookie cop when she finds a newborn baby in a dumpster. Who could do such a thing?? Cindy is captivated by the little baby and becomes obsessed with finding her parents. She solicits help from her father, Lieutenant Peter Decker, who also becomes obsessed when his daughter is shot at. (Obsession seems to run in the family, huh?) Meanwhile, Cindy is dating the cute male nurse she met while visiting the infant she rescued and the fact he is black causes some racial tensions. Also meanwhile, Decker and his wife Rina are investigating the 65 some-odd year old murder of Rina's grandmother that happened back in pre-war Munich.

Every moment spent with Peter and Rina are just great. I was especially amused to see how famously Decker gets along with his in-laws - his mother-in-law couldn't stand him when he and Rina first got together. And I loved the moment Cindy got her first glimpse of Daddy actually on the job - she had much the same reaction I had when I first saw him - he's a ruthless SOB! I really like Koby, Cindy's new love interest, but their moments together are kind of sappy. Absolutely no one waxes poetic all the time. The ending is kind of Deus ex Machina and the last scene is a bit maudlin, but the final line of the book gave me a good chuckle.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The interaction between Decker and Koby is fun and actually, the relationship between Cindy and Detective Brill is highly amusing too.


Cover 16. STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS (2005)     [rate]


Cover 17. THE BURNT HOUSE (2007)     [rate]



NON DECKER FICTION BOOKS

Cover DOUBLE HOMICIDE (2004)     [****]
(With Jonathan Kellerman)

Great read!

Best selling spouses Faye and Jonathan Kellerman got together and collaborated on this one. Well, not really - it is two separate stories in one volume, but it's fun. I'd seen copies that were flip style - one story on one side, flip it over and the other story starts on the other side, know what I mean? The copy I have isn't like that, though - it is just one after the other and I really don't know who wrote which story, although, I have my suspicions. They are both great stories.

The first one is called In The Land of Giants and takes place in Boston. Basketball is the name of the game in this one, as a flagrant foul on the court spills over to gun fire at a night club after the game and a brilliant young athlete ends up dead. Detectives Dorothy Breton and Michael McCain arrive at the scene after a frantic call from Dorothy's son, who is a ball player and was present at the club during the shooting. Dorothy is understandably quite shaken up - it could easily have been her boy laying dead and she is friends with the victim's mother. The investigation leads down some unexpected roads and even the ME gets actively involved in this one.

I really like the characters in this - especially Mickey - Detective McCain. He is just too amusing. Gosh, I shouldn't be amused at his misery, but I am. He laments the fact that he used to be God's gift to women and now he's kind of gone to seed. He's a great friend, though and I really like him.

The second one is called Still Life and takes place in Santa Fe. Detectives Darrel Two Moons and Steve Katz are called out to investigate the murder of a prominent art dealer. The case is not an easy one because the victim was a real SOB and any number of people would have loved to see him dead - it's a matter of too many suspects. Slowly, but surely they start to uncover the shocking truth and the end of this one really was a bit of a shocker. One of those stories that made me go 'WHOA!' when I read the last page.

I really like the characters in this one too. Especially Katz - probably for the same reason I like Mickey - he's wallowing in misery since his wife left him. She's a real flake, but a captivating flake and she's actually the one who provides the info that cracks the case.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. And since I could read one story one night and the other the next, I didn't have to loose sleep trying to read the entire book in one night!


Cover CAPITAL CRIMES (2006)     [*****]
(With Jonathan Kellerman)


Visit my ALEX DELAWARE site for reviews of books by Faye's husband, Jonathan Kellerman.


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