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False Prophet

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Author Faye Kellerman’s latest mystery has much to say about problem families. Detective Peter Decker’s daughter, Cindy, expresses her feelings of rejection when her father remarries, to a woman twelve years his junior and barely older than Cindy herself. That conflict, secondary to the main plot line, works itself out by the end of the book. The same cannot be said of the family involved in the running of the Valley Canyon Spa Resort.

The novel begins as Decker responds to a call to the spa. He finds the proprietor, Lilah Brecht, battered and raped. As Decker and his partner investigate, they discover that theft also has occurred. Missing are the only copy of the memoirs of Hermann Brecht, a famous film director, and a million dollars worth of jewels owned by Lilah Brecht’s mother, former actress Davida Evensong. Evensong appears more concerned about her jewels than about the memoirs or her daughter, but Brecht believes that the memoirs, which were to remain sealed until her twenty-fifth birthday as a condition of her father’s will, were what the thieves were after when they attacked and robbed her.

Decker soon finds himself involved in family infighting featuring the controlling matriarch Evensong, Lilah, her brother, and two stepbrothers. The brother and stepbrothers are all doctors; two disapprove of the third, who runs an abortion mill in addition to his obstetrics and gynecology practice. The doctors’ intentions become suspect after Lilah’s horse is given PCP, to which all three may have had access. The drugged horse nearly kills Brecht, drawing the doctors in as suspects in the crimes involving Lilah. As Decker and his partner unwind an expanding web of crimes, including two murders, they uncover the warped relationships among these family members, relationships that prove important in solving the various crimes.