Now living in upstate New York, former LAPD lieutenant Peter Decker is plunged into a bizarre web involving academia, underworld crime, and calculating killers in this next compulsive novel in New York Times bestselling author Faye Kellerman’s beloved Decker and Lazarus series
Former LAPD lieutenant Peter Decker is relishing the quiet and slow pace of his new job with the Greenbury police department. The work is low stress and engaging, and it’s been almost a year since the last murder in this sleepy upstate New York town.
Then the body of a nude man is found deep within the woods, shattering Decker’s peace. The death appears to be a suicide—a single shot to the head, the gun by his side. But until the coroner’s ruling, the scene must be treated as a suspicious crime. Without any personal effects near the body, Decker must dig to uncover his identity, a task made difficult by the department’s tight budget and limited personnel. Luckily, Decker gets some unexpected help when his friend and former Greenbury colleague Tyler McAdams calls, looking for a quiet place to study for his law finals.
The investigation takes Decker and McAdams to Kneed Loft College, where they must penetrate the indecipherable upper echelons of mathematics and mathematical prodigies. Beneath the school’s rarified atmosphere they discover a sphere of scheming academics, hidden cyphers—and most dangerous of all—a realm of underworld crime that transforms harmless nerds into cold, calculating evil geniuses. It will take all of Decker’s experience and McAdams’s brains to penetrate enigmatic formulas and codes and solve a dark, twisted crime devised by some brilliant and depraved masterminds.
The Theory of Death is my first novel in the Peter Decker/ Rina Lazarus series and the 23rd, so I’m joining the characters very far into their journey. The book follows Peter Decker, head of the Police Department in a quiet New York town (having moved there from LA, it seems) as he investigates the apparent suicide of a man who turns out to be an incredibly intelligent maths student at Kneed Loft College.
Along with former colleague McAdams (who left the force to study law, but is back to help out), they investigate the goings on at the college and dive into the world of maths (or ‘math’ as they say in the US).
The theme of academia in this novel is a really interesting one, and there are some interesting mathematical theories referenced which, despite knowing next to nothing about anything past GCSE maths, I found really interesting. The plot becomes more complex as the team discover that the man who died was working on some very important research – and another body turns up…
I found the characters interesting but didn’t hugely connect with any of them – but I imagine if I’d read the previous novels in the series I’d understand them more. Mallon in particular was an irritating character who didn’t seem to add anything really to the story.
The plot was intriguing without being too complicated but I didn’t think the ending was that great. However, I would definitely read more from this series as I thought it was well-written. Ultimately it’s no surprise that The Theory of Death perhaps wasn’t the best book to read first from this series (I picked it up in a charity shop) so that’s definitely on me, and I imagine seasoned readers will enjoy this more. It is still a solid and enjoyable mystery/crime novel.