August 20, 2001 12:00 PM

by Faye Kellerman

The 13th installment of Kellerman’s engrossing series begins with vandalism at the L.A. synagogue of Orthodox Jew Rina Lazarus. Her gentile husband, Lt. Peter Decker, is on the case. He nabs the culprit, Ernesto Golding, a son of ’60s leftists whose remorseful parents quickly wangle him into a rehab program run by pricey psychological counselors and an ex-Marine. Case closed.

But then Ernesto turns up dead, and there will be plenty more murders where that came from. Readers new to Kellerman’s series may be slow to pick up the details of the drug problems of Rina’s teenage son Jacob or of Decker’s trials as a stepfather. And at times the writing seems like Judaism 101 (after Jacob admits to shoplifting, he says, ” ‘I’m doing kapparah for it.’ ‘What kind of atonement?’ Decker asked, using the English word”). But as Kellerman cooks up plot elements ranging from the lurid (S&M sex, mysterious photographs from Treblinka) to a satirical look at psychologists, she keeps the suspense on the boil. (William Morrow, $26)

Bottom Line: Orthodox mystery with unusual twists

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