Milk and Honey

Peter Decker, exhausted from a day on the streets with the LAPD and an evening of religious instruction with Rabbi Schulman, is trying to unwind with a drive in the foothills before returning home. Rina Lazarus is back in New York with her children and Decker is feeling more than a bit stressed out. But for all his fatigue, Decker is not so unobservant that he fails to notice a chubby two-year-old girl in bloody pajamas playing on a seesaw.

Decker soon determines that the blood does not belong to the child, but he cannot locate anyone in the neighborhood who can identify the youngster. Unfortunately, Decker is not able to concentrate solely on finding where the child lives. For one thing, an old army buddy is in jail for raping and stabbing a prostitute and expects Decker to repay a previous obligation by proving his innocence. Moreover, Rina, his soon-to-be wife once Decker completes the conversion to Orthodox Judaism, is being sexually harassed by her deceased husband’s brother. These problems, plus a certain amount of grief from his coworkers regarding his formal conversion to Judaism, push Decker to the limit. Resisting quick resolution, his situation becomes ever more complex. Rina’s assailant is arrested in a vice raid; the Army friend appears to be guilty; and Decker discovers the badly mutilated bodies of the little girl’s parents in a farmhouse in the country with no clue as to the identity of their killer.

The Decker/Lazarus combination is one of the more original detective duos in contemporary fiction. Faye Kellerman is capable of bending the factual detail of a police procedural with the rich diversity of a human relationship that is both contemporary and thoroughly traditional. Moreover, in Kellerman’s mysteries, the supporting figures are as finely drawn as the main protagonists. It is to be hoped that at some point in the future Kellerman will devote a volume to Decker’s highly competent partner, Marge Dunn, or even the crotchety Mike Hollander.