The conversationalist

This intriguing story grips the reader’s attention as it proceeds inexorably to its calamitous conclusion.

By MORTON I. TEICHER
May 7, 2010 16:04
2 minute read.
The Executor

The Executor 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Executor
By Jesse Kellerman
G.P. Putnam's Sons | 352 pages | $25.95

The protagonist in Jesse Kellerman’s The Executor is Joseph Geist, a 30-year-old “lapsed Catholic” who, when we first meet him, is being evicted from her apartment by his girlfriend, Yasmina, after their two year romance reaches its end. She comes from a wealthy family in California and is finishing her law education at Harvard. Geist is in his eighth year as a graduate student in philosophy, also at Harvard, but is unable to complete his dissertation and his student status is being suspended.

Geist comes from a troubled mid-western household that is dominated by his cruel father who “brutalized his family.” His mother “was a child when she married” and she is completely cowed by her husband. They were wed after she became pregnant with Christopher, Geist’s older brother. The father physically abused Christopher, finally beating him so severely that Christopher ran away in his father’s truck and went off the road, dying in an accident. It was never clear as to whether or not Christopher had actually committed suicide.

Befriended by the local Catholic priest, Geist studied philosophy with him and was encouraged to seek admission to Harvard where he gradually did well and was urged to pursue a doctorate. Now, as his relationship with Yasmina is ending and his dissertation progress is at a standstill, he answers an ad for a “conversationalist” and begins a relationship with Alma Spielmann, an elderly, wealthy lady, originally from Vienna. She is interested in philosophy and they have lengthy discussions, leading eventually to her inviting him to live in her large house. Things begin to deteriorate as her poor health gets worse and a scheming nephew appears on the scene. The ensuing developments are hellish with dire and disastrous consequences.

This intriguing story grips the reader’s attention as it proceeds inexorably to its calamitous conclusion. Kellerman makes full use of his own experience as a Harvard undergraduate in providing a backdrop for his riveting tale. When Jesse Kellerman’s parents get ready to pass the baton, they can do so with full confidence that the next generation will live up to the high standard they have set.

Author Jesse Kellerman is the 31-year old son of Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, both successful mystery writers. Jonathan Kellerman, a former clinical psychologist, has written many thrillers featuring Alex Delaware, a forensic psychologist and special consultant to the Los Angeles Police Department. Faye Kellerman, trained as a dentist, is a highly successful detective story writer. Her chief characters are “Rabbi” Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. She has recently published a novel for teens, written with her daughter, Aliza. The family members are observant Jews and Jesse Kellerman spent a year in Israel studying at a religious seminary. However, only Faye Kellerman features Jewish characters in her books.

The Executor is Jesse Kellerman’s fourth novel. Although he has a graduate degree in playwriting, he prefers to write fiction since he doesn’t have to share responsibility with a play’s director. His three previous novels, The Genius, Trouble and Sunstroke, were all well received mysteries. This latest book will undoubtedly add luster to his already fine reputation and will reinforce the high esteem fully earned by the Kellerman family.

The writer is the founding dean, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, and dean emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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