Unnatural History (Alex Delaware: Book 38) by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: February 7th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Series: Alex Delaware

When the Bough Breaks—Book 1

Blood Test—Book 2

Over the Edge—Book 3

Silent Partner—Book 4

Time Bomb—Book 5

Private Eyes—Book 6

Devil’s Waltz—Book 7

Bad Love—Book 8

Self-Defense—Book 9

The Web—Book 10

The Clinic—Book 11

Survival of the Fittest—Book 12

Monster—Book 13

Dr. Death—Book 14

Flesh and Blood—Book 15

The Murder Book—Book 16

A Cold Heart—Book 17

Therapy—Book 18

Rage—Book 19

Gone—Book 20

Obsession—Book 21

Compulsion—Book 22

Bones—Book 23

Evidence—Book 24

Deception—Book 25

Mystery—Book 26

Victims—Book 27

Guilt—Book 28

Killer—Book 29

Motive—Book 30

Breakdown—Book 31

Heartbreak Hotel—Book 32

Night Moves—Book 33

The Wedding Guest—Book 34

The Museum of Desire—Book 35

Serpentine—Book 36

City of the Dead—Book 37 (review here)

Unnatural History—Book 38

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The most enduring detectives in American crime fiction are back in this electrifying thriller of art and brutality from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

Los Angeles is a city of stark contrast, the palaces of the affluent coexisting uneasily with the hellholes of the mad and the needy. It is that shadow world and the violence it breeds that draw brilliant psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis into an unsettling case of altruism gone wrong.

On a superficially lovely morning a woman shows up for work with her usual enthusiasm. She’s the newly hired personal assistant to a handsome, wealthy photographer and is ready to greet her boss with coffee and good cheer. Instead, she finds him slumped in bed, shot to death.

The victim had recently received rave media attention for his latest project: images of homeless people in their personal “dream” situations, elaborately costumed and enacting unfulfilled fantasies. There are some, however, who view the whole thing as nothing more than crass exploitation, citing token payments and the victim’s avoidance of any long-term relationships with his subjects.

Has disgruntlement blossomed into homicidal rage? Or do the roots of violence reach down to the victim’s family—a clan, sired by an elusive billionaire, that is bizarre in its own right?

Then new murders arise, and Alex and Milo begin peeling back layer after layer of intrigue and complexity, culminating in one of the deadliest threats they’ve ever faced.

First Line:

When I go to crime scenes, I’m ready to focus on terrible things.

Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman

When I got the publisher’s invitation to read and review Unnatural History, I almost didn’t accept it. At that time, I was overloaded with books and was reading (and reviewing) furiously to catch up. I ultimately accepted the review because the publication date was 2023 (I got the invite in late 2022). I was glad I accepted the invitation because this was a fantastic mystery.

The plotline for Unnatural History was intriguing. A promising young photographer is found murdered by his assistant. Alex is called to calm the assistant down enough for the police to talk to her. With little evidence and clues as to who killed Donny, the investigation soon turns to his family and the subjects of his newest project. Who killed Donny? Why is the killer going after Donny’s subjects? And can Alex keep out of the killer’s crosshairs?

Unnatural History is the 38th book in the Alex Delaware series. Given that there are 37 books before it, you don’t need to read the previous books. This book can be read as a standalone.

Unnatural History is a fast-paced book in Los Angeles, California, and the surrounding cities. I liked the different and slightly seedy look the author gave Los Angeles. It made for a more exciting read.

There are a couple of trigger warnings in Unnatural History. They would be homelessness, talk of drug use, talk of alcohol abuse and use, mental illness, and a brief description of accidental drowning. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

The characters in Unnatural History were well-written, but some were flat in certain scenes. Mainly, it was the secondary characters of Donny’s family. I couldn’t connect with any of them. It was only with his family members. Every other character I was able to connect to them on a certain level.

  • Alex—As with the other books I have read, I liked him. Even though he was a child psychologist, he was happy to help Milo with his investigations.

Unnatural History fits perfectly into the mystery genre. The author did a perfect job of keeping who the killer was until the last couple of chapters. I was shocked at who it was and why this person was killing. The author did have me thinking it was someone other than who it was.

I thought the main storyline with Donny, who killed him, why, his family and the investigation was well written. I’m not going to get into the storyline, but it did take me for a ride. The author did open my eyes to insurance fraud (with the homeless).

The storyline with Milo, Alex, and Donny’s last project was sad. I get why Donny was doing what he did. I also got why people had an issue with what he was doing. The author did a great job of showing what problem homelessness is in California without coming across as a jerk. Most of the investigation centered around the homeless, and the backstories were heartbreaking.

The end of Unnatural History was very poignant. I was pretty pleased with how the author ended Donny’s storyline. A scene at the very end made me teary-eyed and, in turn, made me think about family.

I would recommend Unnatural History to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Jonathan Kellerman for allowing me to read and review Unnatural History. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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