The The­o­ry of Death

Faye Keller­man
  • Review
By – June 29, 2016

In the lat­est install­ment of Faye Kellerman’s mys­tery series, Peter Deck­er and Rina Lazarus, an Ortho­dox cou­ple, have been liv­ing in the qui­et upstate New York town of Green­bury for a year. Most of the police activ­i­ty there involves deal­ing with the antics of col­lege stu­dents or help­ing elder­ly cit­i­zens who can­not find their cars. Deck­er enjoys the slow pace, but occa­sion­al­ly miss­es the busy Los Ange­les depart­ment that he left. Things pick up when his cap­tain, Mike Radar, calls him to inves­ti­gate the death of a nude man found deep in the woods. It appears to be a sui­cide, but the death is sus­pi­cious, so Deck­er begins look­ing for answers. 

The depart­ment is small, and he is hap­py when his for­mer cowork­er, Tyler McAdams, who is now a first-year law stu­dent at Har­vard, calls to ask if he can come stay with him while study­ing for finals. Of course the case intrigues Tyler, and he ignores his stud­ies to assist Deck­er. It turns out that the vic­tim was also a stu­dent: Eli Wolf, a bril­liant math stu­dent at Kneed Loft Col­lege. When a young pro­fes­sor also turns up dead, the detec­tives begin to won­der if the cas­es are related.

The inves­ti­ga­tion reveals the intense com­pe­ti­tion among both stu­dents and fac­ul­ty eager to make their marks in acad­e­mia. Keller­man bril­liant­ly evokes char­ac­ters who guard their work zeal­ous­ly and think noth­ing of poach­ing research to get ahead. The two cas­es require the detec­tives to learn about the­o­ret­i­cal math­e­mat­ics as well as aca­d­e­m­ic rival­ry. Rina and Peter’s inter­ac­tion with Eli Wolf’s Men­non­ite fam­i­ly adds anoth­er inter­est­ing ele­ment to the sto­ry. As both fam­i­lies are obser­vant and tra­di­tion­al, they under­stand and respect one another. 

Read­ers will enjoy the com­plex and sus­pense­ful plot as well as the human rela­tion­ships. The The­o­ry of Death is a good choice for pub­lic library mys­tery col­lec­tions as well as syn­a­gogue libraries with fic­tion col­lec­tions. Book clubs that read mys­ter­ies will have inter­est­ing eth­i­cal issues to dis­cuss as well. 

Relat­ed Content:

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions