A sniper opens fire on a crowded Californian schoolyard but is killed before any children are harmed. When the sniper’s identity is revealed, a media frenzy erupts. Why would they want to take innocent lives?
Psychologist Alex Delaware is brought in to help the kids cope with the ordeal but is drawn into investigating the motives of the would-be assassin. Alex soon finds himself on a bloody and twisted trail into the world of political extremism from which there may be no way back…
Book five in my Kellerman Reread is also the fifth book in the Alex Delaware series. Time Bomb deals with what looks like a school sniping avant la lettre, but it is anything but. However, the more I read these books written in the Eighties the more I’m shocked by how little some of the issues have changed. Not just in terms of the larger issues such as racism and bigotry regarding sexual orientation, but also in things that I thought were typical of the twenty-first century, things such as privacy concerns due to new technology for example. I keep coming back to the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The plot at the heart of the book was interesting enough, with several sidesteps and twists. Time Bomb starts off with a school shooting, where fortunately none of the students and teachers were hurt, but they are traumatised and Alex is called in by Milo to help out with the kids. The shooter is the obvious villain, but through Alex’s investigation into her motives and through learning more about her background, we learn that Holly Burden is perhaps as much a victim as the children at Hale Elementary.The villains of the piece are vile from both a moral and an ideological perspective. Kellerman cleverly makes at least one of the villains of the story also be innocent of the crimes connected to the Hale shooting, but Mahlon Burden, Holly’s father is an awful human being who used his daughter Holly as an unpaid housekeeper and made her feel as if she was less than dirt. One of the true victims of the book is Ike Novato. His murder becomes an object of interest to Milo as part of the investigation into Holly and it turns out he is a victim of a political conspiracy. While Ike’s case is fascinating, it feels as if he replaces Holly as the most important subject of investigation, which while logical since she looks as if she’s a perpetrator, also feels a little unfair, especially when we learn more about her.
Time Bomb is also the first book where we see Alex and Milo do a lot of detecting together, with Alex actually tagging along to crime scenes. I really liked this development and I hope it’ll continue in the next books. Their investigation into Ike’s murder leads Milo and Alex to the Holocaust Center; Milo has worked with them before and has a special interest in them, as Kellerman reminds us that in addition to the millions of Jewish people who were murdered, Hitler also persecuted the Roma, LGBTQ people and general political dissidents. I found the sections dealing with the Center and the Holocaust fascinating and affecting, since I’ve grown up with stories about the war and Kellerman’s descriptions of the exhibit at the Center were quite raw and visual. And again, the anti-semitic elements uttered against the Center and others in the book are eerily reminiscent of those expressed in today’s society, once more emphasising that we haven’t made as much progress as we’d like to think in the last twenty-five years.
As might have been expected after Silent Partner, in Time Bomb Alex and Robin have ended their relationship and aren’t really in contact anymore at the start of the book. After the realisations Alex had in the last book about his own part in the breakdown of their relationship, he has gone back to his own therapist and has worked on his problems. When he meets Linda Overstreet, the principal of Hale Elementary, and they hit it off, we see him trying to not be smothering, so there is definitely progress. However, Alex does have a thing for younger women apparently. What killed me though, was that just as he’s moving forward, Robin calls. These painful, painful phone calls with Robin, who ostensibly isn’t looking to get back together, but misses their friendship, really bugged and also made me somewhat annoyed with both Robin and Kellerman, because really, that timing? Arg! Milo seems to be doing better, both privately and career-wise. He’s been promoted to D-Three, though there are lots of fellow officers who think he’s only been jumped up because of politically correct reasons and not due to his genuine skills. Obviously, this puts more pressure on Milo to prove himself and we still see him battling up the hill. We’re also once again reminded of the fact that Milo sometimes shows a severe lack of impulse control or perhaps a heavy disregard for the consequences of his actions when pushed to his limits and it’ll be interesting to see how events will resonate in the next book.
Overall, I enjoyed Time Bomb more than I remembered and this reread is turning out to be as interesting due to the confrontation with the Eighties and how much they compare instead of contrast to today, as the quality of the stories. It’ll be interesting to see whether this persists the closer we come to the current day or whether the stories will move to the forefront as the time it is set in doesn’t distract as much anymore because I actually consciously lived through it. Onwards to the next book Private Eyes!