February 28, 1994 12:00 PM

by Jonathan Kellerman

Like many mysteries, Bad Love begins with a scream—this one captured on tape and delivered in a plain brown wrapper. When a child’s chant—”bad love, bad love”—follows, it’s clear we are in the charter territory of Kellerman’s psychologist turned sleuth, Alex Delaware.

The mystery, Delaware soon deduces, goes back to a 1979 symposium in Los Angeles that nobody wanted to attend—a tribute to the psychiatrist Andres de Bosch and the de Boschian theory of Good Love/Bad Love. But who is stalking the seminar’s participants—and why? Because Delaware himself had a place on the dais, he has more than a minor stake in solving this case of the disappearing doctors.

Since his 1985 first novel, When the Bough Breaks, Kellerman has proved consistently adept at balancing violent scenes and thoughtful social overviews. This ninth attempt—quick paced, delicately plotted, with some vivid scenes—will not disappoint his readers. Still, the originality of his earlier work is fading, and recurring characters are beginning to seem shopworn. Maybe it’s time for Delaware to have a change of life—or for Kellerman to create a new protagonist. (Bantam, $22.95)

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