True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman

January 14, 2010

true detectives Plot summary (with spoilers): Upscale private investigator Aaron Fox (black) and LAPD detective Moses “Moe” Reed (white) are estranged half-brothers who suddenly find themselves working on the same case. They are both investigating the disappearance of a college student named Caitlin Frostig, who went missing after a night at the swanky Riptide club in Los Angeles. Aaron is working the case for Mr. Dmitri, a wealthy Russian businessman and the employer of Caitlin’s father. Moe is working the case because it’s an Open/Unsolved that’s been bothering him. Neither brother is aware of the other’s involvement at the start.

They each take different angles during their investigation, Moe preferring to focus on Rory Stoltz, Caitlin’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, while Aaron chooses to shadow movie star and Riptide regular Mason Book, along with his pal Ax Dement, son of movie mogul Len Dement. The investigations eventually cross, as it turns out that Rory is Mason Book’s personal assistant and drug procurer. The brothers grudgingly agree to share information about the case, and while they stop short of actually working together, they do cooperate.

The investigation then flows along predictable lines that include surveillance, overnight stakeouts, more murders, more suspects, arrests, interrogations, and false positives before finally settling on the actual perp — who conveniently provides a detailed confession that reveals the full, convoluted story.


  • Some elements of this novel were fun and/or intriguing. I liked the idea of the two brothers working the case from different angles, but didn’t quite enjoy the way Kellerman developed the plot. (See below.)
  • Mason Book was a decent red herring. I couldn’t figure out what his connection was, whether he actually committed any of the crimes or had them ordered, etc. To learn that he was just a clueless, doped-up celeb was kind of fitting. I’m sure there are plenty of people like him in L.A.


  • The beginning of this book was slow as hell. Was it really necessary to go into that much detail about Moe and Aaron’s parentage? The whole “flashback to the 1970’s” thing made it very difficult to get into the actual story. I couldn’t figure out what the book was supposed to be about at first. Surely Kellerman could have found a quicker way to describe the characters’ lineage.
  • What was up with the exhaustive descriptions of Aaron’s wardrobe? Kellerman was obsessed with telling readers about the style, color, cut, material, and maker of every single outfit that Aaron wore, from the beginning of the book all the way to the end. Plus, we got details about his workout regimen, his cabinet full of vitamins for men, and the nutritional info for every meal he ate. WTF??? Who cares! Yeah, we get that he’s a clotheshorse and likes to be flashy. Yeah, we get that he loves his body. Yeah, we get that he and Moe are complete opposites in that respect. We don’t have to be reminded 20 times!
  • I thought the main plot was overly complicated for no good reason at all. I mean, let’s face it: when it takes a written confession from one of the main suspects in order to reveal everything that happened, then there are shortcomings in the work. Len Dement was only mentioned in passing prior to the end, but he turns out to be a main player in all the mayhem? Really?? I call b.s. on that. I hate when writers pull this kind of crap.
  • There were just too many subplots that went nowhere. Liana and Dr. Steve Rau? Who really cared about that “romance”?? It was completely unnecessary and simply wasted time. Aaron and Moe having dinner with their mom? Yawn. Aaron sleeping with Mrs. Dement? Are you kidding me? I thought Aaron was supposed to be Mr. Professional. That was just weird and completely unbelievable. It was hard to fight through these stupid detours to get back to the main story.
  • Caitlin was in a convent the whole time? Again, I call absolute bullshit on that. Sure, I can understand that she would want to escape from her disgusting pig of a father, but since when do modern-day 20-year-olds run off to convents? What is this, The Sound of Music??? And did she think the cops wouldn’t look for her? Damn, talk about wasting money and resources….


True Detectives was my first Jonathan Kellerman book, and will likely be my last. Though there were some traces of a good detective story here, the novel is unnecessarily bloated with a bunch of boring crap that you won’t remember 10 minutes after you turn the final page. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

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