Cousins: Siblings once removed + “The Murderer’s Daughter” by Jonathan Kellerman

I was really lucky growing up; I know that now as an adult and a parent. I had parents who pretty much made time for me to do everything that a kid could want to do. I grew up in the country, running a little wild (in a good, country kind of way), and I was forced to do chores, and to work when I got older. I was given a lot (sporting goods equipment, mostly, and clothes, because that was the family business), but I had to work for a lot, too. I learned the value of hard work, and the joy of hard play.

I also was lucky because I grew up near my mom’s family. My grandparents owned the family business for much of those days, with my parents and one of my mom’s sisters working there also. Thus, we spent a lot of days with my cousins.

Especially my Best cousins. The Best cousins, both literally and figuratively: their last name is and was Best.

They were all younger than me, so I was kind of their queen (shhh, don’t tell them). My oldest Best cousin, Teresa, was the same age as my younger brother, and they went to school together. Her younger sister, Stacey, was year younger. And their younger brother, Mark, was the baby of the family by about four years or so.

We spent a lot of time together, the Bests and the Carlsonelectra_woman_12 (1)s. Teresa and Stacey were my de-facto little sisters, letting me curl their hair and playing Electra Woman and Dyna Girl with me. Mark was the baby, working hard to keep up, keeping us all on our toes.

Sure, we spent holidays together, but at least once a weekend it seemed like we went to dinner together, or spent the afternoon together, or I babysat for them. We made cookies and rode bikes. We walked their neighborhood and jumped on their trampoline; they hung out in the country and jumped on our trampoline.

We screamed at each other, made fun of each other, dried each other’s tears. I made up stories to tell them, and they still prod me to write the book based on those stories.

They were nearly siblings. We shared our mothers’ familial history, and we built our own shared narrative. Because of them, I always felt like I had younger sisters and an extra younger brother.

I never, ever, ever imagined a world where we wouldn’t all live within 20 minutes of each other as full-on grown-ups. But I always thought I would live in my hometown after marriage and children.

As with most things I imagined as a child, this could not be further than the truth. Teresa lives in Oregon, my brother lives in Florida. I’m in Ohio. Mark, the baby, lives in the southern suburbs of Denver. Only Stacey lives in our Colorado hometown. Of their three sisters, only my aunt remains in Colorado.

So we talk on Facebook, and we visit Colorado every couple of years.

But it’s not even close to the same. I miss the physical, emotional, and mental closeness with these people that were my siblings once removed.

I hope they know how much their kinship and friendship meant to me growing up, and how much they mean to me now. How much of our shared past has shaped me, making me into the mother, the wife, and the woman that I am today.


Okay, onto a look at another familial relationship: The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman.

I’ve always loved Jonathan Kellerman and his Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis books, so I was excited to get to know his new, totally different psychologist, Grace Blades. He did not disappoint.

The Premise

Grace Blades is a brilliant, dedicated psychologist, treating the most scarred of survivors, understanding them in ways no one else can. As a child of five, Grace watched her drug addled parents die in a crazed murder/suicide, and then went on to a series of foster homes, until she became lucky enough to land at a ranch where her brilliance was recognized, and the ranch owner’s brother-in-law was equipped and willing to take on Grace.

But Grace’s brilliance and hurt needs an outlet, and she finds the control she needs in a series of secret one-night stands, quickies, and other dangerous situations in which she has a modicum of control.

When one of her quickies shows up as a patient, Grace is shaken. When she learned that he was murdered the next day, she finds that their connection is deeper than she could have imagined, and that parts of her childhood can and will continue to stalk her unless she takes control of the outcome.

My Thoughts

I really liked the Grace Blades character, the depth and breadth of her. She’s incredibly flawed, in the most wonderful way.

The story of Grace is told by varying the timeline: chapters in the present are brilliantly interspersed with those telling the story of Grace’s past. Kellerman does a wonderful job of changing pace without missing a beat.

My only disappointment with The Murderer’s Daughter was the abruptness of the ending. I’m not going to give anything away other than to say it is anticlimactic.

Despite that, The Murderer’s Daughter is well worth the read. I hope we hear more from Grace Blades; I would love to see the way her flaws play out.

I give this one 4 stars, even with the abrupt ending. Nicely done, JK. Nicely done.


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