I have been attempting to read some of the bestselling thriller writers that I have for one reason or another just never got around to before and decided to continue with this by reading “The Murderer’s Daughter” by Jonathan Kellerman.
Dr. Grace Blades had overcome many obstacles in her life and gone on to become a success story to those who knew her. She was born into a loveless relationship that ended with violence between her parents when her mother snapped and murdered her father. Grace was then thrust into the world of a succession of foster parents that never wanted anything more than an easy paycheck for keeping her around. She finally got herself into a situation in which she could flourish when she was taken in by a rich couple who recognized her genius and nurtured her emotionally and academically until she entered Harvard early and went on to get her doctorate and become a psychologist who specialized in working with those who had suffered severe trauma. She was at the top of her field as she worked to help others overcome obstacles similar to the ones she had faced. Reality then threw her a curveball and showed her that just because she was a healer did not mean that she was healed.
Grace has a problem with intimacy and satisfies her urges through anonymous encounters with strangers. When one of these anonymous men shows up in her office as a new patient the day after their tryst, Grace is faced with a moral dilemma. When he is murdered shortly after his appointment, the dilemma becomes a full-blown problem. As Grace begins to dig into the man’s identity and whether or not his murder may have anything to do with her, she unravels a mystery that is linked directly with her past and puts her reputation, career, and even her life in danger. Grace must now allow her inner self to be free once more as she transforms from Dr. Grace Blades to the murderer’s daughter in hot pursuit of the ghosts of her past in order to save her future.
“The Murderer’s Daughter” was not what I was expecting at all. I started the novel expecting a fast paced thriller and instead found a slower and brooding novel that plodded along at times while it explored the fairly deep waters of what it is that makes us time. Grace is a person that is largely defined by her past even though she has done the best that she can to bury it. Even with all of her accomplishments and success, the trauma of her past still lingers in the back of her mind and subconsciously controls her actions. She tries to deny it, tries to move past it as if she has free will, but this is really just self-denial. Grace is still stuck in the rut that she was forced into as a child and has been living the life that was predetermined rather than chosen. The child had been removed from the violence of her past and managed to hide this from the world but the violence of her past was never erased from her mind.
“The Murderer’s Daughter” is a good book that had the potential to be a very good to great novel if it were not for a couple flaws that kept it from reaching that level. While the book does a good job of delving into Grace’s past and showing how she became the person that she is when the novel starts, there is a whole lot of coincidence to the novel that just keeps it from being believable. Whether by good fortune or manipulation, the fact that the core group of characters goes from being foster children to being adopted by wealthy couples is just a little too much for me to swallow. The simple fact of the matter is that this would be a rare occurrence and not one that would be likely to happen to a group of foster children from the same place. Yes, it could happen, but it does stretch suspension of disbelief to the point of snapping. The other, and more serious, flaw is that Grace just is not a good character. Even with the strong face that she puts on for the world, she is really just a victim and not a very likeable one at that because she is complicit in her own victimhood. I could never really relate with her and she never really develops over the course of the novel. She is exactly the same at the end of the novel as she was at the beginning. The novel does a good job of how she became this way by outlining her past but the fact is that she simply stopped developing as a teenager and became a shallow and somewhat deplorable adult. I enjoyed “The Murderer’s Daughter” but was a little bit disappointed because I felt that the novel could have been so much more than it turned out to be. It is still well worth a read and I would definitely try something by Kellerman in the future, however, and would suspect that this novel will satisfy his dedicated fans.
I would like to thank Ballantine and NetGalley for this review copy. “The Murderer’s Daughter” is available now.