In the first Alex Delaware novel, Dr. Morton Handler practiced a strange brand of psychiatry. Among his specialties were fraud, extortion, and sexual manipulation. Handler paid for his sins when he was brutally murdered in his luxurious Pacific Palisades apartment. The police have no leads, but they do have one possible witness: seven-year-old Melody Quinn.
It's psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware's job to try to unlock the terrible secret buried in Melody's memory. But as the sinister shadows in the girl's mind begin to take shape, Alex discovers that the mystery touches a shocking incident in his own past.
This connection is only the beginning, a single link in a 40-year-old conspiracy. And behind it lies an unspeakable evil that Alex Delaware must expose before it claims another innocent victim: Melody Quinn.
©2003 Jonathan Kellerman (P)2012 Random House
"An engrossing thriller.... this knockout of an entertainment is the kind of book which establishes a career in one stroke." (New York Newsday)
"Suspenseful, neatly spun, fascinating." (Philadelphia Daily News)
"Grab yourself a copy soon." (Los Angeles Times)
When I started listening to this book, I was delighted that, finally, someone with an analytical eye was creating interesting and believable characters; of course, he is a psychologist, so that figures. However, the descriptions of sex scenes just left me cold. What had started out as an interesting and engrossing mystery got diverted into cheap, gratuitous soft porn that added nothing to the story and only killed off the momentum of the mystery. Too bad, as the topic of child exploitation and abuse is such a horrific ongoing problem in the world and does not need to be ignored while we are subjected to graphic descriptions of the protagonist's own sexual encounters; an uncomfortable juxtaposition under the circumstances. Despite that, I MIGHT listen to another one of his books, but probably free from the library rather than paying for it. We'll see....
It is above average and I'm an avid audiobook listener.
I was about 3/4 of the way through before I started to get a hint of what the plot may be about. That's pretty good suspense in my book!
Not too dramatic.
I am a mental health professional and thought the depiction/commentary of the mental health system in the book was pretty accurate.
Freelance journalist, now living in Israel. Audible books listener for 30 years, when I had to pretend to be blind to get access.
That's it! This book did it. I'm going to revise my audiobook buying habits. Just prior to this classic adventure with Dr. Alex and Milo, I'd bought -- and listened to -- four or five new books written and narrated by authors and narrators unknown to me. Most weren't all that bad, but neither were any of them all that good. Mediocrity reigned. I'd find my mind drifting off, have to backtrack, sometimes more than once. Occasionally near the end of the book a character's name would come up and I'd realize I had no idea at all who that was.
Then I reverted to "When the Bough Breaks" by this much loved author. Understand, I've read not only all the Alex Delaware books but all the "stand alones" too, "Billy Straight" and the best of them all, "Butcher's Theater". But I hadn't read "Bough" for a very long time -- decades, probably. I was betting I wouldn't remember much of the specifics of the plot.
Starting in, I was captivated from the very first minute. Good to be reminded of how Alex and Milo met, good to see Robin in the early stages of that relationship, good to remember when her workshop was in 'downtown' Venice, when she was just getting started. Loved the descriptions of Venice -- not that way anymore, but it was, back then.
I love this book -- I've loved them all. I love characters; I love the clinical insights scattered throughout, even though I know nothing of psychology. I really love the unbelievably accurate and fascinating LA-area scenery Kellerman describes so perfectly, much of which I'm familiar with myself. In this book, Dr. Alex takes a drive through that "other" Malibu, the upland hills, away from the sea, the one where snakes -- both those that crawl and those who walk upright -- thrive, where affluence isn't the order of the day, but drugs and danger lurk behind every turn. I think one time I was lost driving up in that area myself -- listening to the description again made me shiver. It's remote up there -- another world entirely, and Kellerman uses it to great advantage.
Bottom line: this was an enormously enjoyable book. I never lost concentration, not for one moment. It was well narrated, even though the narrator mispronounces "Ventura", over and over. (It's 'ven TUR a', from the Spanish. NOT 'ven CHUR a'. It has no connection to the English 'venture' -- more likely from San Buenaventura, one of the local holies of long ago.) Still, Alexander Adams' low key narration is just about perfect, smooth, pleasant and easy to listen to.
So? I've changed my strategy. From now on, I'm staying away from new books by unknown authors. I'm reverting to tried and true, golden oldies written by authors I know and love. I'll wait for the new authors to prove themselves.... and until then, I'll buy only books I already know I'll love. ... And now I'm hunting more by Jonathan Kellerman.
One of the better ones.
It is an easy listening story, well written and easy to follow but enough intrigue to keep you interested. Very well narrated too, good storytellers all round
He read it along similar veins to the way I may have if I read the book myself.
No, just an enjoyable listen.
I know this is an oldie, and we cannot judge it by Kellerman's recent work, but really, it was a little too preposterous. ALERT: There are scenes that describe graphic child sexual abuse here. There are words/phrases that would be unspeakable in today's sensitive times. But we cannot slight JK for that -- that was then and this is now.
No, my complaints are about the way the story unfolds. First there is some detective work that combines Milo & Alex, then Milo disappears and Alex is a psychologist, detective, and near-mercenary. There are some nice homey scenes between Milo and Alex and their respective amours, but not enough of them.
At any rate, the bad guys are rounded up and the most hated of them have stories to tell; long, stories, told in retrospect, as if it justified their adult behavior.
Alex treks to other states, gets in fights, shoots, captures and threatens people until the truth comes out. When it does, all the truths link up into a somewhat surprising outcome.
I am glad that JK decided to take the weapons away from Alex in his later, more mature books.
I know it was the launch of the series, so for me, having read all the subsequent books, this one lacks the cohesiveness and logic of the best and most modern of the Alex/Milo canon.
I would not recommend this book, however, because of the graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse. I would feel responsible to someone who read it on my recommendation and encountered this content. I would not recommend it to anyone who loves the Milo/Alex pairings because this one does not illustrate their relationship as we have come to expect.
For a first time reader of JK, it is always best to begin a series at the beginning, and this one, because of some of the content, might turn someone away.
I had to check to be sure, but there is a movie (1994) of the same title, which seems to include some aspects of this plot, though it doesn't seem an exact rendering.
Great page turner, intense and well-written suspense novel. I enjoyed it so much, I'm now involved in reading his subsequent books!
It kind of felt like watching an old '80s rerun of Magnum PI or Colombo.
Interesting potential for unique plot, character, setting, if told with a more interesting voice and focus.
The plot is revealed through long monologues by characters speaking about what they did. The prose is replete with grandiose superfluous verbiage, as if Kellerman is trying to write too hard. He also wants to describe each room and character in excruciating detail, which leaves no room for imagination, if you pay attention and don't drift off out of boredom.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
For a first novel, When the Bough Breaks is pretty wonderful. And it is a great beginning to the Alex Delaware series, which now numbers 28 books and counting.
I like the way Kellerman writes. He does spend a lot of time in minute description, but somehow it's interesting, not boring, and he uses some descriptive metaphors and similes that seem unique and entertaining to me. He also spends a good deal of time describing both the emotional and physical aspects of his characters, and depicts most of those characters (except the bad guys) with empathy and compassion. Since his plots deal with psychological motivations, that seems appropriate. His plots are complex but easily followed. I do think the descriptions of Alex Delaware's own sexual encounters with his girlfriend are not very exciting.
The friendship and working relationship between Alex and Milo Sturgis, gay cop, is well drawn, and very believable.
The narration by Alexander Adams was excellent, with just the right ironic undertones that Kellerman put in Alex's words in certain passages. He handles male and female characters, with Latino, Southern and other accents, believably. And he is able to switch characters quickly in conversations. A difficult job well done.
Ok as a mystery. The beginning was very good. I liked the way Alex investigated. Example, Alex needs to talk to a 7 year old girl who saw something. The girl’s mother is ignorant and poor and keeps the daughter on drugs to keep her quiet. Alex talks to the girl’s Doctor who prescribes the drugs. The Doctor won’t stop the drugs, he has a huge ego, he talks down to Alex. Alex befriends the girl. They go to the beach and a merry-go-round. There’s a whole mini story going on about the girl that is engaging and very interesting. It’s not just Alex going to the girl, asking questions and then leaving.
Alex talks to many people during the book, which are like mini stories, but the reader doesn’t get any good clues until the end when there is a tell-all. One bad guy is caught and reveals all the details. That was ok, but it’s not my preferred type of mystery.
In later sections of the book, my mind occasionally wandered, but not too bad.
The subject matter of raping children may bother some readers, but no details are shown.
I liked the narrator Alexander Adams. He does women nicely without sounding effeminate.
Genre: mystery with suspense
I've been a big fan of Kellerman's for a while and have read all of his books except this one, which is the first in the series about Alex and Milo. This is not his best work, but very entertaining - once you get over the idea that an ordinary psychologist can suddenly turn into a ruthless and tough PI (with more luck than anyone could hope for). Although the story deals with gruesome subject matter, I really enjoyed the story.
The narrator must be one of the best I’ve heard thus far and does an excellent job.
Definitely worth a credit if you are not too sensitive.
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