Jacob Lev left homicide because of the toll it was taking on him, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Special Projects. They’re a unit no one, including Jacob, has ever heard of but they seem to be able to pull strings all over the city and they want Jacob on their latest case.
An unidentified head has been found in an abandoned house in the Hollywood hills. The lack of blood and a body seems to suggest the murder took place elsewhere and the only evidence at the scene, aside from the head itself, is a pool of puke and the Hebrew word for justice carved into a countertop. With very little to go on, Jacob is unsure exactly where to begin, but then DNA on the victim comes back as a match to one of two strains tied to a decades old serial case. Digging into those old files could finally lead to a resolution and identifying the head is sure to be the first step in finding the current killer. But as the case proceeds, it takes on more and more bizarre aspects that seem to defy explanation. And Special Projects is starting to look like more of a hindrance than a help in solving the case.
Both Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman have made their respective marks on the thriller scene, but The Golem of Hollywood is their first outing as co-authors (Jonathan of course has co-authored with Faye Kellerman prior to this). I must say the partnership is quite successful.
The Golem of Hollywood is unique in that it ties a gruesome modern murder to a story as old as Genesis – literally. That ancient tale is told in chapters that appear throughout the book, tracing its way from the days of Cain and Abel through to sixteenth century Prague, Rabbi Loew, and the golem.
I definitely had some mixed feelings about the book at first. The current storyline, the murder mystery, grabbed me immediately. The interspersed historical chapters hung up the pacing and were so confusing when they first appeared that I really had no idea what I was in for. Fortunately, the overall plotting is fantastic and the thread of the secondary story began to make more sense the further the book progressed. By the time The Golem of Hollywood started to go into unexpectedly strange and supernatural territory (that occasionally begged for some serious suspension of disbelief), I didn’t care. I was sold and was enjoying myself quite a bit.
I’ve no doubt this is the kind of book that’s going to draw extremely mixed reviews. The blend of Jewish lore, biblical history, and mystery wasn’t completely unexpected. It brought to mind Faye Kellerman’s work more so than what I’ve experienced from Jesse Kellerman (I’ve not read Jonathan Kellerman’s solo work as of yet) but I think having read her prior left me prepared for that possibility. The supernatural aspects were definitely a surprise, again based on what I know about the Kellerman family’s work in general, but it was something I didn’t mind at all thanks to my own reading tastes. I do think that readers more open to something different and unique will take away more from The Golem of Hollywood than someone who’s staunchly opposed to the mixing of genres. But I do hope that even the latter will give the book a shot. As I said, it’s quite fun.
The Golem of Hollywood is the first in a series. The follow up, The Golem of Paris, is out now.
12/15 Becky LeJeune
THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman. Jove (July 28, 2015). ISBN 978-0425276136. 688p.