Faye Kellerman’s The Theory of Death is an engaging mystery with great characters, a clever plot and very human characters. Pete Decker is a retired LA homicide detective who has taken a job with a small police force in an Eastern college town. Decker is aging and thinking about it, but of course there is a murder to keep him occupied. Ever since I first read Amanda Cross’s Death in a Tenured Position, I have loved academic mysteries. This one is set in the hyper-competitive math department of a small college, and there is lots of petty intrigue and jealousy to keep the story moving.
This series has been around for a long time and also features Decker’s wife Rina, an interesting orthodox woman of great understanding and warmth. Inevitably she gets drawn into the efforts to figure out who did what to whom and why. Decker is also an observant Jew and that adds a unique dimension to his character. Since moving East, this series has acquired a young, irreverent yet dedicated cop, Tyler McAdams. The tension and repartee between the experienced Decker and the newbie McAdams add to the charm and the bite of this series.
If you have never read an of Faye Kellerman’s Pete Decker series, you might want to start at the beginning. The Theory of Death stands on its own, but I really liked the early books because they set up Decker’s relationship with his wife and also offered a crash course in orthodox Jewish practice, in much the same way as Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. I have a always loved this series and particularly like this foray into academia.