Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Released Date: 1999
Publisher: Warner Books
Kellerman isn't just an Edgar Award-winning thriller writer, he's a prominent child psychologist, and it shows in Billy Straight. The hero is a 12-year-old runaway whose sharp mind and straitlaced moral sense make him fit to survive the lurid jungles of Hollywood. One night hiding in Griffith Park, Billy witnesses the butchering of Lisa Ramsey, the cokehead ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a crummy actor-golfer once busted for pummeling Lisa. Did Cart knife Lisa, or was it his pathetic old football sidekick Greg Balch?
When O.J. was on trial, Kellerman said, "This wouldn't make a good novel," but some of Kellerman's toughest critics say this funhouse-mirror version of an O.J.-like case is his best, better than his famous Alex Delaware series. Psychologist Dr. Delaware has a bit part here, but the heroine is Detective Petra Connor, his distaff equivalent. Kellerman's main strength is his vivid invention of secondary characters and his skill at juggling subplots. When Petra's media-whore boss puts Billy's police sketch in the paper with a $25,000 reward, two marvelously sub-simian bounty hunters join the chase: a vicious Russian ex-cop and the vile biker boyfriend of Billy's stoned-out, trailer-park mom.
My fifth Jonathan Kellerman read. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.
When Billy Straight, a twelve-year-old runaway witnesses a gory murder at a park, he must do everything he can to protect himself from the unknown killer. The deceased is Lisa Boehlinger, a former model and ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a TV star. Suspicion falls on Ramsey because Lisa had once publicly revealed how he beat her up. Detective Petra Connor and her partner Bishop Stu are called to investigate the case. When the case gets more complicated than they expect, and with Stu’s wife undergoing a mastectomy, Wil Fourrier joins them in the investigation.
A good mystery, fast-paced, and it pulls the emotional strings. Kellerman’s writing is superb. This book has a large cast of characters and the story is told from different point-of-views. The author does a good job of entering his characters’ head and telling the story the way they would tell it, using the kind of diction they’d use. Thus, you won’t encounter a twelve-year-old speaking like a detective, or a street hustler talking like a murderer. The whole California setting paints a solid image in the head. What’s more, Alex Delaware makes an appearance at the end of the book.
This is first book in the Petra Connor series, though I first encountered Petra in Twisted, my favorite Kellerman novel. I got to learn more about her background and her personality. I connected with her because she’s instinctive, caring, and she’s tough. A good detective, but not a perfect one. Here, she tackles one of her major cases.
As a result of being tormented severally by his mother’s boyfriend, Billy Straight, the titular character leaves home. He moves to Hollywood and lives in the streets and parks for four months before he witnesses the murder. Jonathan Kellerman does well in capturing this kid’s voice. Billy steals book from the library to read, though he says it’s not stealing because he always returns the books he takes from the library.
Billy Straight is just one amazing book. A five Star read.
Check it out if you like mysteries. You won’t be disappointed.