In Lost Souls Deputy Coroner and new father Clay Edison’s latest case triggers two parallel investigations into long-buried family ties and secrets, against a backdrop of halted construction work, activists and protestors, court hearings, missing records and more personal threats, in this new novel by father-son duo, Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman.
Deputy Coroner Clay Edison is juggling a new baby who won’t sleep with working the graveyard shift. For once he’s trying to keep things simple.
When infant remains are found by developers demolishing a local park, a devastating cold case is brought back to light.
Clay has barely begun to investigate when he receives a call from a man who thinks the remains could belong to his sister – who went missing fifty years ago. Now Clay is locked in a relentless search that will unearth a web of violence, secrets and betrayal.
For a novel effectively dealing with not one but two cold cases, Lost Souls moves at a decidedly faster pace than you might imagine it would. It positively licks along right from the opening scenes where the body is discovered and cleverly whips us through the protocol and procedure that follow such a grim discovery while still managing to hold my interest. It does this by indicating where slight deviations to the norm occur, which all lead to this case hitting the desk of Deputy Coroner Clay Edison, and the reception party, each with their own vested interests, which greets his arrival in People’s Park.
A special mention also has to go to the novel’s opening lines which are:
On a damp Saturday, just last year, the sixties finally died in Berkeley.
On Sunday, I came for the bones.
In two short sentences, the scene is set, in a place known for being the home of the University of California, Berkeley; it was the birthplace of the 1960s Free Speech Movement and evokes an era when student protests were rife and love might have been free but not without its consequences, even if those are only now coming to light. The proposed development project and surrounding protests are based on actual events but even without those, this book feels rooted in reality.
Clay Edison immediately comes across as sympathetic and relatable; I liked his voice, his sense of humour and his anger, how reasonable and fair he seems, and how he is trying to balance all the competing demands on his time and attention. He’s a new father when we meet him in Lost Souls and, understandably, sleep deprived. Yet he’s determined to make sharing the childcare duties work for everyone and has opted to work the night shift, thereby enabling his wife Amy to go back to work as a psychologist and see her patients during the day.
Admittedly, this doesn’t always work out and he has to call on family members to help. There are a couple of hair-raising moments in the book where even this falls through and I did wonder what he was thinking, schlepping his young daughter, Charlotte, around with him. Still, it’s a refreshing change to see a young father trying to deal with childcare issues, and sleep deprivation, while also trying to work his normal caseload, and conduct a side investigation.
Clay is invested and methodical in his approach to the two cases in Lost Souls, but he also reminded me of a Terrier, once he’s chasing down leads. I couldn’t help but admire his tenacity and thoroughness, and his ingenuity when gathering the information he needed, either occasionally bypassing the restraints of the system or in making it work for him.
That initial discovery of a body in People’s Park only hints at what is to come in Lost Souls. Throughout the novel, so much more will be unearthed and the authors cover a lot of ground, even if the action never strays more than an hour’s drive away from Berkeley, and taking in Half Moon Bay, San Quentin, and a remote homestead south of Livermore.
Clay’s investigations in Lost Souls will reveal the many layers that make up human experience and relationships and will take in academic brilliance to work on the atomic program or misogyny and stultifying domesticity; from caring for someone to putting them in harm’s way; from private lives to government programs; from post-partum depression to single mothers trying to keep themselves and their children afloat; from displaced children and distant fathers to broken homes and sibling relationships; from failing to put in the work or check statements to chasing down every last lead; from lies told to protect others to unreliable witnesses.
Lost Souls is an absorbing, multi-faceted novel; it’s a story of secrets and family ties, and the choices people make for themselves and others in life, cleverly excavated and pieced together by Deputy Coroner Clay Edison. I engaged with this book and its winning protagonist from the opening sentence right to the very end, and don’t think this will be my last virtual visit to the Bay Area or Clay’s case file.
Lost Souls is the third book in the Clay Edison series written by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman but my first time reading any of their books. The completionist in me doesn’t usually like joining a series part-way through but Lost Souls works well as a stand-alone novel and I didn’t notice the authors recapping any of the recurring characters or past cases in the obtrusive way in which sometimes happens in series. And if, like me, you’re left wanting more Clay Edison, there’ll be two earlier books from the back catalogue already lined up and waiting.
Lost Souls by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman is published by Century, a Penguin Books imprint. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback from 23 July 2020. You can pre-order it from Amazon UK or Hive where each purchase helps to support your local independent bookshop.
Jonathan Kellerman is the Number One New York Times bestselling author of more than forty crime novels. He lives with his wife in California and New Mexico. For more information please visit his Author Website or Facebook Page.
My thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.
Check out #LostSouls on Twitter for more stops on the blog tour.