Kellerman, Faye 1952-
Kellerman, Faye 1952-
Born July 31, 1952, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Oscar (a retailer) and Anne (Steinberg) Marder; married Jonathan Seth Kellerman (a psychologist and novelist), July 23, 1972; children: Jesse Oren, Rachel Diana, Ilana Judith, Aliza Celeste. Education: University of California—Los Angeles, B.A., 1974, D.D.S., 1978. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Fencing, gardening, music.
Writer. Previously an independent investor and real estate manager in Los Angeles, CA, beginning 1974. Apprentice luthier, 1981.
Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors, southern California), Women's Israeli Political Action Committee, Sisters in Crime.
University of California—Los Angeles research fellow, 1978; Macavity Award for best first novel, 1986, for The Ritual Bath.
The Ritual Bath, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1986, published as The Ritual Bath: The First Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Novel, Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.
Sacred and Profane, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1987.
Milk and Honey, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.
Day of Atonement, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
False Prophet, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Grievous Sin, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Sanctuary, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Justice, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Prayers for the Dead, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Serpent's Tooth, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Moon Music, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Jupiter's Bones, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Stalker, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
The Forgotten, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Stone Kiss, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Street Dreams, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2003.
(With husband, Jonathan Kellerman) Double Homicide, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004, also published as Double Homicide: Boston; Santa Fe, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Straight into Darkness, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Jonathan Kellerman) Capital Crimes, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Quality of Mercy (historical romance), Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
The Garden of Eden, and Other Criminal Delights, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including Sisters in Crime, A Modern Treasury of Great Detective and Murder Mysteries, and Murder for Love.
Author's books have been adapted for audio, including Stone Kiss, Time Warner AudioBooks, c. 2002, and Straight into Darkness, Books on Tape, 2006.
Faye Kellerman is a best-selling crime novelist whose works feature deeply religious characters caught up in a violent, amoral world. Graphic descriptions of gruesome crime scenes are common in her books, but so are sensitive portrayals of pious individuals struggling with great issues in life. Kellerman, whose husband Jonathan is also a highly successful crime novelist, had studied math and dentistry in college and only began writing as "an act of catharsis" shortly after the birth of her first child, she told Bettijane Levine of the Los Angeles Times. She found that she enjoyed it, and she wrote dozens of romance novels (none of which were ever published) before trying her hand at a mystery. It became her first published book, The Ritual Bath.
As in most of Kellerman's ensuing books, there is a romantic story as well as a tale of crime in The Ritual Bath. It tells the story of Rina Lazarus, a young widow who lives with her son in an Orthodox Jewish village near Los Angeles. A high school teacher, Lazarus is also an attendant at the mikvah, or women's ritual bath. After a bather is brutally raped, she volunteers to help the police with their investigation by interpreting the group's religious rules for them and encouraging the rest of the community to cooperate. Peter Decker, the detective assigned to the case, finds himself strongly attracted to Rina. The feeling is mutual, but because Peter is a Baptist, Rina is forbidden by the rules of her religion to become romantically involved with him.
"The story is absorbing on a number of levels, both as a romance and as a mystery," wrote a contributor to the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. "Kellerman obviously understands Orthodox Judaism well and portrays the close community with affection and sometimes humor. The casual mention of various rituals and expressions adds color and makes for fascinating, informative reading for those not familiar with these religious practices." The writer cautioned, however, that there is a raw edge to Kellerman's work: "The author's writing is realistic and her characters true to life." The writer for St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers continued: "She does tell it like it is about life in America as it is played out in the evening news and it is not a pretty sight."
In many of the novels that followed, Kellerman developed the love story between Rina and Peter. She revealed that Peter was Jewish by birth, but had been adopted by Protestant parents. In Milk and Honey, he embraces Orthodox Judaism even as the previously devout Rina is experiencing some doubts about her religion. Counterpoint to these moral issues is the story of the murder of an entire family over a business dispute. Peter Robertson praised Kellerman's deft handling of action and reflection, writing in Booklist: "With Decker alternately cracking skulls and praying over a plate of kosher food, it's all a delight." Robertson termed Kellerman "a gutsy, forceful writer," noting that "her cop talk in the station house fairly crackles, and her plotting style is agreeably perverse."
In Day of Atonement, Peter and Rina are married and travel to New York to visit her extended family in New York City during the High Holy Days. There, Peter is disturbed by an unexpected encounter with his natural mother, and one of Rina's young cousins is kidnapped. "Even wearing his robes and yarmulke, [Decker] is a cop with a mission once more," noted Robertson in another review in Booklist. Noting that a satisfying "visceral tension … spring[s] from watching the pious Decker forced to descend once again into the moral sludge," Robertson noted that "this graphic, pungent novel shows Kellerman at the gritty peak of her form." A Library Journal contributor also endorsed Day of Atonement, finding that "hard-hitting details, vignettes of Jewish life, and uncomfortably close glimpses of a cold-hearted psycho make this an entrancing page turner. Not to be missed."
Decker and Rina move through the passages of childbirth and parenthood in the novels False Prophet, Grievous Sin, and Sanctuary. A St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers contributor pointed out that "the early novels in this series explored the importance of religious culture to people in a nation where Church and State are separate, and look at what it can mean to be an outsider in one's own country." The contributor found "it is refreshing to encounter characters whose moral sense is based on something rather than a reaction against something." The St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers contributor continued: "In Kellerman's work, the blood and guts and pain are real and the victims aren't the only ones who suffer." Regarding the graphic, extreme violence depicted in the book, the contributor advised that "it is ghastly and upsetting to read, but Kellerman's descriptions of death are not gratuitous. It is crucial for readers to understand the horrors that motivate the characters' sometimes ruthless deeds."
In Stalker, Kellerman features Cindy Decker, an intelligent, attractive officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. Cindy is Peter's daughter from a first marriage, and she finds herself having a very difficult time being accepted by the male-dominated police force. Cindy soon has reason to think she is being stalked, and it seems the person harassing her could possibly be a fellow officer. Another suspect is Armand Crayton, an unsavory real estate developer who was supposedly kidnapped, then killed in a car crash. Several other women who were acquainted with Crayton have been threatened, even had cars stolen since he supposedly disappeared. A Publishers Weekly contributor was very enthusiastic about Kellerman's achievement in Stalker, calling her "a fine writer," capable of vividly evoking her Los Angeles setting and of dealing "realistically with the problems women face in a male police world." Furthermore, the "development of the tense father-daughter relationship is wise and honest."
Cindy was again featured prominently in the 2003 publication Street Dreams. In that novel, the policewoman finds an abandoned baby and attempts to find the mother, who may be developmentally disabled. Her efforts draw disapproval from her comrades on the force, who believe she should leave the matter alone. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin remarked that while readers new to the series might find it hard to get involved with the book, it should please those familiar with the series as an "entertaining puzzler" that "takes the characters' relationships to a new level."
Another younger member of the family is featured in The Forgotten, in which Decker's teenage stepson reveals a disturbing side when the shul attended by the family is desecrated by people he knows. Hate groups figure prominently in this story, which also covers teenage alienation and parent-child dynamics. It is a "complex, disturbing novel," in the estimation of a Publishers Weekly contributor. "The author, as usual, seamlessly weaves her themes of religious belief and familial respect into a multilayered thriller."
Kellerman tried something different from her well-established series in Moon Music, published in 1998. While still in the detective thriller genre, Moon Music has strong mystical overtones and incorporates such ideas as shape-shifting and cannibalism within the story. The protagonists are an unlikely pair of twins, Romulus and Remus Poe. Due to an overdose of a growth hormone, Remus is a seven-foot-tall giant, while Rom, a detective, is just five feet, seven inches. They live in Las Vegas, and the murder case involves the grisly mutilations of showgirls and prostitutes. "Kellerman has taken a big risk by moving into new territory, but she pulls it off admirably," praised Emily Melton in Booklist.
Kellerman is also the author of the historical romance novel The Quality of Mercy, featuring a spirited Spanish woman living in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Rebecca Lopez, daughter of the queen's personal physician, is bored with the limited life of a woman in that era. To enjoy greater freedom, she poses as a man. In this guise, she meets—and falls in love with—a young William Shakespeare. "The Jewish heroine and Anglican playwright swear undying devotion, but in fact neither can bear to desert their families and elope," reported a Kirkus Reviews contributor, further noting that the book "boast[s] a number of amusing cameos—in particular, Queen Elizabeth, an aging lesbian." A St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers contributor commented: "As in her modern works, Kellerman's Jewish characters have a deep faith and she brings to vibrant life the customs and practices of the conversos [Jews forced to feign conversion to Christianity to escape persecution] in the crypto-Jewish community in sixteenth-century England." The contributor also noted: "Kellerman is a powerful, inventive writer whose plots and characters hold the reader's attention from beginning to end. She truly understands modern America and the prejudices and pressures that lurk behind its facade of flag-waving family values. All of her novels reflect her keen intelligence and her special ability to advance her stories principally in dialogue perfectly tailored to her characters."
In her 2002 novel, Stone Kiss, Kellerman once again features Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. For the most part, Peter takes center stage as he agrees to investigate the murder of his half-brother's brother-in-law and the coinciding disappearance of the man's niece. Decker soon learns that a New York mobster named Chris Donatti, whom Decker once put behind bars, may hold the keys to the death and disappearance. "The amoral Chris steals the show here; a great foil for the righteous Decker," wrote Stephanie Zvirin in a review in Booklist. Overall, reviewers generally praised the novel as one of Kellerman's best efforts. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Stone Kiss contains "bravura storytelling," adding that it is "vintage Kellerman." Another reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly commented: "Raw. Brutal. Ugly. And, of course, riveting."
Kellerman teamed with her husband Jonathan Kellerman for the 2004 book, Double Homicide, also published as Double Homicide: Boston; Santa Fe. The book consists of two novellas. The Boston case is about a young basketball star who dies mysteriously while the Sante Fe story features two detectives investigating the killing of an art gallery owner who had numerous enemies. Amy Brozio-Andrews wrote in the Library Journal: "In both novels, the Kellermans' collaborative writing style drives home gritty drama, compelling dialog, and believable characters." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that there is "nothing fancy here," adding that the book is nonetheless "oh-so-refreshingly readable. In comparing the two stories, reviewers were not always in agreement on which tale is better. A Publishers Weekly contributor favored the Sante Fe story "with its fully rounded characters and evocative sense of place." On the other hand, Stephanie Zvirin, writing in Booklist, called the Boston-based story "the strongest of the pair," adding that it "is also the grittier of the two."
Kellerman once again collaborated with her husband to write Capital Crimes. Published in 2006, Capital Crimes, like Double Homicide, contains two novellas. Unlike the previous collaboration, in which the publishers left it unclear whether the authors wrote together or contributed a novella each, this time each author takes the credit for penning a story, although the husband-and-wife team also collaborated on both. Faye Kellerman's contribution, "My Sister's Keeper," features the murder of a California state representative named Davida Grayson who is also an activist lesbian who favored stem cell research. The author's reoccurring character LAPD detective Peter Decker makes an appearance in this story of a murder in which the killer may have been motivated by either politics or a personal relationship. "Both stories offer satisfying twists and crisp, smart dialogue," wrote Paul Katz in Entertainment Weekly.
In an interview on Bookreporter.com Web site, Kellerman discussed her collaborative efforts with her husband, noting: "These books were intended to supplement rather than to substitute for our novels, and, of course, we wanted to see how smoothly we worked together. Turns out, it was a wonderful process, without a cross word, and we were quite pleased with the results." The author went on to comment about Capital Crimes in particular: "The novella form was new to us, and though we were pleased with Double Homicide, we found ourselves wanting to dig deeper into the characters' lives and internal thought processes. In a sense, that brings these books closer to our novels, so perhaps we've veered toward ‘familiar territory.’ However, the combination of our two voices has produced a new voice that can't be replicated by either of us working alone. Quite fascinating, really, to see what emerged."
In her 2005 novel, Straight into Darkness, Kellerman presents an historical mystery that takes place in 1929 in Munich as Hitler and his allies are beginning to show their true nature. As Hitler's Brown Shirts target Jews, gays, and the members of other political parties, Munich police inspector Axel Berg is disgusted by Hitler's methods. Nevertheless, he finds himself involved in the politics of the day when a Jewish man is set up as a scapegoat for murders committed by a suspected serial killer. Berg soon is not only fighting to save the Jewish man but also his own career. Referring to Straight into Darkness as "a complicated novel," Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin also noted that "Berg … is one of Kellerman's richest creations."
The Garden of Eden, and Other Criminal Delights is a collection of eighteen short stories by Kellerman. In addition to her usual crime stories, the author also includes a young adult collaboration with her daughters, Rachel and Ilana, featuring a story about a winning lottery ticket. In another story, "Mummy and Jack," Kellerman collaborates with her son Jesse to tell a story about Jack the Ripper. Kellerman's popular, reoccurring characters Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker also appear in several stories, and Kellerman writes a remembrance of her late father in the short story "The Summer of My Womanhood." "Bestseller Kellerman's hardcore fans will welcome this eclectic volume," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin noted that the stories feature "greed, dashed hopes, and boredom, occasionally leavened with a touch of humor."
Kellerman once told CA: "I write mysteries because the genre deals with gut level issues—life, death, murder, deception. I started writing novels when I was at a professional standstill. The extra time allowed the creative juices to flow. Creative boredom is invaluable for me. When my mind's a blank, ideas—oftentimes no more than fragments—appear to me in dreams. My family is my true source of inspiration. My husband, Jonathan, is also a novelist—a suspense writer—and between the two of us the house is filled with bizarre tales and news clippings. We don't work together but we do share thoughts and ideas. Making the family work as a unit is a continual and challenging project."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, April 15, 1990, Peter Robertson, review of Milk and Honey, p. 1610; June 15, 1991, Peter Robertson, review of Day of Atonement, p. 1936; June 15, 1992, review of False Prophet, p. 1810; July 1993, review of Grievous Sin, p. 1917; August 1, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Justice, p. 1910; July 1, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 1780; June 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 1620; June 1, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Moon Music, p. 1670; June 1, 1999, Emily Melton, review of Jupiter's Bones, p. 1742; May 1, 2000, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Stalker, p. 1621; March 1, 2001, Karen Harris, review of Stalker (audio version), p. 1295; July, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Forgotten, p. 1951; June 1, 2002, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Stone Kiss, p. 1646; February 1, 2003, Jeanette Larson, review of Stone Kiss, p. 1005; May 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Street Dreams, p. 1546; September 1, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Double Homicide: Boston; Double Homicide: Santa Fe, p. 5; September 1, 2005, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Straight into Darkness, p. 6; May 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights, p. 34; November 1, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of Capital Crimes, p. 6.
Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), September 22, 2002, review of Stone Kiss, p. F6.
Entertainment Weekly, October 8, 2004, Karyn Barr, review of Double Homicide, p. 120; August 25, 2006, Paul Katz, review of The Garden of Eden, p. 89; November 24, 2006, Paul Katz, review of Capital Crimes, p. 112.
Herald Sun, March 15, 1997, Janet Chimonyo, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 14.
Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, winter, 1997, Lawrence W. Raphael, review of Justice, p. 122.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1989, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 571; March 1, 1990, review of Milk and Honey, p. 308; June 15, 1992, review of False Prophet, p. 751; June 15, 1993, review of Grievous Sin, p. 753; June 1, 2002, review of Stone Kiss, p. 774; July 1, 2003, review of Street Dreams, p. 886; August 15, 2004, review of Double Homicide, p. 781; June 15, 2006, review of The Garden of Eden, and Other Criminal Delights, p. 604.
Kliatt, March 1, 2006, Francine Levitov, review of Straight into Darkness, p. 57.
Library Journal, June 1, 1987, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Sacred and Profane, p. 132; May 15, 1989, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 90; May 1, 1991, review of Day of Atonement, p. 110; July 1992, review of False Prophet, p. 130; August 1993, review of Grievous Sin, p. 159; August, 1996, Katherine Holmes, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 119; June 15, 1998, Laurel Bliss, review of Moon Music, p. 107; July, 1999, Jane La Plante, review of Jupiter's Bones, p. 142; September 1, 2004, Amy Brozio-Andrews, review of Double Homicide: Boston and Santa Fe, p. 125.
Los Angeles Magazine, August 1, 1995, Sean Mitchell, "Oy Faye: Faye Kellerman's Orthodox Jewish Mysteries Map the Grisly Side of L.A.," p. 167.
Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1996, Bettijane Levine, "Jonathan and Faye Kellerman Have a Lot in Common," p. 5; August 16, 2001, Paula L. Woods, review of The Forgotten, p. E3; August 18, 2002, review of Stone Kiss, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 22, 1996, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 8.
Mercury (Hobart, Australia), January 26, 2002, Ellen Whinnett, review of The Forgotten, p. 44.
New York Times Book Review, August 23, 1992, Marilyn Stasio, review of False Prophet, p. 17; October 1, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of Justice, p. 28; September 8, 1996, Marilyn Stasio,. Review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 26; August 18, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of Stone Kiss, p. 14.
Palm Beach Post, September 1, 2002, Paul Lomartire, review of Stone Kiss, p. 11K.
People Weekly, October 13, 1997, Cynthia Sanz, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 33.
Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), October 27, 2002, review of Stone Kiss, p. E4.
Publishers Weekly, May 1, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Sacred and Profane, p. 56; April 28, 1989, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 64; February 23, 1990, review of Milk and Honey, p. 206; April 19, 1991, review of Day of Atonement, p. 60; June 1, 1992, review of False Prophet, p. 53; June 21, 1993, review of Grievous Sin, p. 88; September 5, 1994, review of Sanctuary, p. 94; July 31, 1995, review of Justice, p. 72; June 17, 1996, review of Justice, p. 62; July 8, 1996, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 77; November 4, 1996, review of Prayers for the Dead, p. 40; June 23, 1997, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 74; August 18, 1997, Susan Salter Reynolds, interview with Faye Kellerman, p. 64; September 1, 1997, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 40; May 18, 1998, review of Moon Music, p. 73; August 17, 1998, Daisy Maryles, review of Moon Music, p. 20; July 5, 1999, review of Jupiter's Bones, p. 62; July 10, 2000, review of Stalker, p. 47; July 16, 2001, review of The Forgotten, p. 161; July 1, 2002, Ben P. Indick, review of Stone Kiss, p. 57; July 1, 2002, "PW Talks with Faye Kellerman," p. 57; June 23, 2003, review of Street Dreams, p. 49; September 6, 2004, review of Double Homicide, p. 49; June 26, 2006, review of The Garden of Eden, and Other Criminal Delights, p. 30; October 16, 2006, review of Capital Crimes, p. 33.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 1998, Sue Ann Wood, review of Moon Music, p. E2.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, December 13, 2002, review of Stone Kiss audio edition.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), August 29, 1999, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Jupiter's Bones, p. 4.
Sunday Mirror (London, England), March 21, 1999, James Harper, "‘Shakespeare’ Copied My Work," p. 11.
Time, August 11, 2003, review of Stone Kiss, p. 60.
Times (London, England), March 19, 1999, Giles Whittell, "‘Shakespeare in Love’ Eclipsed by a Legal Suitor," p. 18.
Tribune Books, August 3, 1997, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 11.
Virginian Pilot, October 25, 1998, Shirley Presberg, review of Moon Music, p. J2.
Weekend Australian (Sydney, Australia), September 5, 1998, Robin Wallace-Crabbe, review of Moon Music, p. R13.
Wisconsin State Journal, August 31, 1997, William R. Wineke, review of Serpent's Tooth, p. 3F.
Book Page,http://www.bookpage.com/ (July 25, 2003), Alden Mudge, interview with Faye Kellerman.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 8, 2003), biography and interviews with Faye Kellerman; (November 22, 2006), "Interview with Faye and Jonathan Kellerman."
Faye Kellerman Home Page,http://www.fayekellerman.net (June 29, 2007).
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (July 25, 2003), Steve Nemmers, review of Moon Music.