January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

by Jonathan Kellerman

When Dr. Eldon Mate—a Kevorkian-like “Dr. Death”—is found murdered, hooked up to his own euthanasia machine, the LAPD calls in psychiatrist Alex Delaware to profile the killer. Delaware, the engagingly complex hero of 13 previous Kellerman thrillers, confronts a surfeit of suspects. There is the right-to-life cadre, which is hardly sorry to see the end to Mate. And the doctor’s grown son, who skates on the edge of sanity, may also have turned the tables on Dr. Death. Among the families of Mate’s 50 “travelers,” as he called his subjects, are the seriously dysfunctional Doss crew. Father Richard has a hair-trigger temper and hates Mate for having assisted the suicide of his wife, Joanne. Brilliant son Eric killed the aging Doss family dog to put it out of its misery, and neurotic daughter Stacy has been a Delaware patient before. But as the investigation continues, it becomes hideously clear that Mate’s death is the work of a serial killer. As Delaware struggles toward a solution—while tangled in ethical problems—Kellerman takes the plot to a deeper level in the controversy over assisted suicide. Neither preachy nor pompous, he constructs resonances without sacrificing his roller-coaster plot. (Random House, $26.95)

Bottom Line: Just what the doctor ordered

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