"The Golem of Hollywood" (Putnam), by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
"The Golem of Hollywood" — the first collaboration by father-and-son Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman — tries to showcase the best that each author brings to his individual novels, but, ultimately, is unwieldy and overwritten. A shorter, more focused story would have been stronger.
The novel works best when Jonathan Kellerman's affinity for police procedures and Jesse Kellerman's use of unusual psychological suspense mesh organically in a hunt for a murderer linked to a Jewish legend.
But too often the plot meanders, relying on unbelievable twists and tiresome flashbacks about the origins of the golem, an artificial human being in Hebrew folklore that can be endowed with life. The frequent touches of the supernatural further weigh down the novel. And despite the reliance on Jewish culture, "The Golem of Hollywood" offers few religious insights.
Detective Jacob Lev has been analyzing statistics in the Los Angeles Police Department's traffic department when he's reassigned to Special Projects, a squad he didn't know existed. His first assignment is an odd murder: a severed head has been found in a vacant house in the Hollywood Hills. The only clue is the Hebrew word for justice burned into a kitchen counter. The head is that of a serial killer, last seen a year ago near a synagogue in Prague before he was attacked by a "hard-domed insect."
The investigation is stymied because he can't get access to information he needs and his new bosses discourage him from talking to witnesses or following clues. Jacob is also confused and frustrated by his own encounters with a strange beetle. The case solidifies only when Jacob travels to Prague, where legend maintains that a rabbi created the golem to protect his synagogue.
While the police procedural aspect moves at a fast clip, the investigation is never as exciting as those that Alex Delaware encounters in Jonathan Kellerman's best-selling series nor as interesting as the unusual turn of events in Jesse Kellerman's stand-alone novels. Jewish lore, supernatural events and shady cops are just window dressing to disguise that there is little beyond the curtain.