The brutal murder of Dr. Azor Sparks in an alley behind a restaurant is greeted with public outrage and a demand for swift, sure justice. But the investigation into the well-known surgeon's death is raising too many questions and providing too few answers for homicide detective Lieutenant Peter Decker.
Why, for example, would the family of a man so beloved respond to his slaying with more surprise than grief? And what linked a celebrated doctor with strict fundamentalist beliefs to a gang of outlaw bikers? But the most unsettling connection of all is the one that ties the tormented Sparks family to Peter Decker's own -- and the secrets shared by a renegade Catholic priest...and Decker's wife, Rina Lazarus.
Powerful, assured and absorbing, Kellerman's ninth Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus (Sanctuary; Justice) mystery begins with the brutal murder and mutilation of renowned heart surgeon, researcher and fundamentalist Christian Azor Sparks. LAPD Lieutenant Decker gets the call. He also gets an abundance of suspects. First there is Sparks's large family: his wife, Dolores, and six adult children, including triplets (Paul, Luke and Abram, a Catholic priest), and their assorted spouses. Then there are the victim's surgical and research colleagues and his unlikely biking buddies. Religion and morality are integral to Kellerman's mysteries?built on the bedrock of the Deckers' orthodox Judaism. Here she deftly casts her net around the commanding victim, whose shadow lay equally over family and colleagues, and his son, the theologian Father Abram, whose past connection with Rina may force Decker off the case. Human strengths and frailties, decisions made or not made and mistakes overcome or yet to be reckoned with provide the material that Decker must sift through to find the murderer. As his competent staff (Marge Dunn among them) launch their probes in all directions, they uncover a catalogue of motives that may relate to Sparks's murder and to another that follows. Kellerman succeeds brilliantly in making the search for understanding as compelling as the search for the murderer. 100,000 first printing; audio rights to Brilliance.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Prayers for the Dead by Faye Kellerman
The living room was dimly lit, the house motionless, reminding Decker of his divorced, bachelor days -- days he'd be reliving soon if he didn't start making it home earlier. To wit: The dining room table had been cleared -- dinner long gone -- and the door to Hannah's nursery was closed, Rina nowhere in sight. Yes, she was a patient woman, but she did have limits. Decker often wondered how far she could be pushed before she'd explode on impact. Because as of yet, no one had developed a road test for wives.
He placed his briefcase on the empty table, his fingers raking through thick shocks of carrot-colored hair. Ginger came trotting in from the kitchen, Decker bent down and petted the setter's head.
"Hi, girl. Are you happy to see me?"
Ginger's tail wagged furiously.
"Well, someone's glad I'm alive. Let's go see what the crew had for dinner."
Decker dragged himself into the kitchen, draped his jacket over an oak kitchenette chair, Rina had kept his dinner warming in the oven. He put on a quilted mitt and fished it out. Some kind of Chinese cuisine except, by now, the snow peas and broccoli were limp and khaki green, and the rice had developed a yellowish crust. At least the noodles appeared nice and crisp.
He set the dish on top of a meat place mat and took out cutlery. Washed his hands, said a quick blessing, but paused before he sat down. He noticed a light coming from under the door of his stepsons' room. To be expected. As teens, they often went to bed later than he did. Perhaps he should say hello to the boys first.
That should take all of five minutes.
Kids had been preoccupied lately, hadn't seemed to have much time for quality conversation. Maybe they were peeved at the late hours he'd been keeping. The more likely explanation was typical teenage behavior. His grown daughter, Cindy, had gone through sullen moments in her adolescent years. Now she was doing postgrad work back east in Criminal Sciences. A beautiful young lady who truly enjoyed his company. Ah, the passage of time...
He glanced at his withered food, eyes moving to the dog. "Don't get any ideas. I'll be right back."
He knocked on the door to his sons' room. He heard Jake ask a testy "What?" Decker jiggled the doorknob. It was locked.
"Someone want to open the door, please?"
Scuffling noises. Desk chair wheels sliding against the floor. The lock popped open, but the door remained closed. Decker hesitated, went into the room.
Both boys were at their desks, books and papers spilling over the work surface. They mumbled a perfunctory hello. Decker returned the greeting with proper articulation, and studied his sons.
Sammy had grown tall this last year. At least five ten, which, according to Rina, had already made him a couple of inches taller than his late father. From the pictures Decker had seen of Yitzchak, the elder boy strongly resembled his dad -- same long face, pointed chin, and sandy hair. His complexion was smooth and fair, freckles dabbling the bridge of his nose. His eyes were dark and quiet in their intelligence. He was also nearsighted like Yitzchak; Sam wore wire-rimmed spectacles. Jake had been the one to inherit Rina's stunning baby blues, her 20/20 eyesight as well.
The boys were still in their school uniform -- white shirt and navy slacks. The fringes of their prayer shawls -- their tzitzit -- were hanging past the hems of their untucked shirts. Jake wore a knitted yarmulke, its colors designed to look like a slice of watermelon. Sammy had on a black, leather kippah embossed with his Hebrew name in gold letters.
"How's it going, boys?" Decker asked. "What're you doing?"
Sammy put down his textbook. "A paper on the evolution of the American Ideal through the literature of Mark Twain. A real conversation stopper." He rubbed his eyes under his glasses, peered at Decker. "You look real tired, Dad. Maybe you should go eat something. I think Eema left you something in the oven."
"Trying to get rid of me?"
"No, I just thought..." Sammy frowned. "Jeez, try and be a nice guy around here. Do whatever you want." His eyes went back to his notes. He picked up a highlighter and started underlining.
Well, that was spiffy, Deck. He shifted his weight, wondered what to do next. Jake came to his rescue. "You have a hard day, Dad?"
"Not too bad."
"Felons took the day off?"
"But no famous people accused of murdering their wives."
"No, not today."
"Too bad," Jake said. "You woulda looked cool on the witness stand."
"Thank you, I'll pass."
Sammy said, "Jeez, Dad, where's your sense of adventure?"
"Adventure is for the young," Decker said. "I'm just a stodgy old coot."
"You're not a coot," Sammy said. "What is a coot anyway?"
"A simpleton," Decker answered.
"Nah, you're definitely not a coot."
"As opposed to stodgy and old."
"Well, better too stodgy than too cool." Jake grinned.