The Lost Boys by Faye Kellerman. (Harper Collins, 2021)
Faye Kellerman began the Peter Decker- Rina Lazarus series in 1986. In the first novel, police officer, Detective Peter Decker of the LAPD, is called in to investigate the rape of a woman, who was going home after taking a mikvah, the cleansing bath, that Orthodox Jewish women take once a month. This is an unthinkable crime, reported by a beautiful, Jewish widow, Rina Lazarus. As Decker returns to the mikvah several times during the investigation, he feels a bond growing between Rina and himself. However, a romance between them is unthinkable; she is Jewish and he is not.
Over the course of the next 34 years and 26 novels in the series, Faye Kellerman has followed Rina and Peter as they overcome their obstacles, marry, and raise a family. While the family saga feels so familiar now as we know the Decker family intimately, Kellerman’s detective stories provide stimulating and fun reading.
At the end of her latest book, The Lost Boys, Kellerman explains her creative process. “All of my books begin with the germ of an idea, usually a new topic that I want to explore.” The root of the plot for The Lost Boys is the question of how parents of missing children can bear the pain of loss, and even worse, not knowing whatever happened to his/her child.
Decker and Rina have moved from Southern California and now live in a rural town, Greenbury, in upstate New York. Having retired from the LAPD, Decker cannot stay away from police work, so he continues as a detective in the small town. His partner, Tyler McAdams, is a brilliant, young man, and graduate of Harvard, who works well with Decker, engaging in playful repartee, but is deadly serious about solving crimes.
There are three threads of family relationships involved in The Lost Boys. The first is the question of what has happened to Bertram Lanz, a 35 year old disabled man, who disappeared from a field trip to walk in the woods, sponsored by the long term care facility in which he lives. Decker and McAdams learn that Bertram was especially friendly with one of the nurses there, Elsie Schulung, who oddly enough, hasn’t been seen on the job for two weeks. Decker and McAdams theorize that perhaps Elsie helped Lanz leave Loving Care and reunite with his girlfriend.
However, as Decker and his partner theorize of other possibilities as to what may have happened to Lanz, a thorough search of the surrounding woods is occurring, in the hopes that the missing man will be found.
Much to the consternation of the searchers, what they do find is a skeleton that has been buried for at least ten years. The second thread of the story begins here, with the introduction of the second plot line. Ten years before, three students from a nearby university disappeared after camping in the woods. So, not only are Decker and McAdams searching for Bertram Lanz, they must resurrect a cold case from a decade earlier. The plot is intriguing, especially after the search team discovers a second body, quite a distance from the burial site of the first skeleton.
The coroner confirms that the remains are those of two of the boys who had been suitemates at college. Is it possible that the third boy had murdered his friends, and then disappeared, or his body interred in the forest as well? To get the answers to all of their questions, Decker and McAdams must travel to Chicago and Saint Louis to interview the grief stricken parents of two of the boys.
The third thread of the novel has to do with Peter’s own family. His adopted son, Gabe, has been contacted by his estranged mother. She has been living with her husband, Devek, in India for years. Now Devek is threatening to take the children away from her if she tries to leave him, and she is terrified. She wants Gabe to come to India and rescue her and his siblings, but that is not a realistic choice. Gabe, Rina, and Decker, are left to come up with a solution to help Gabe’s mom.
Kellerman’s books are all page turners, and often are read deep into the night. If you have never read the Decker-Lazarus books, and are looking for a terrific group of police procedurals with deep character development, this is a wonderful saga. And, the good news is that the end of The Lost Boys sets up the story for the 27th Decker-Lazarus book.