Running into <I>'Trouble'</I>

Jonah Stem needs a new pair of shoes, and shopping for them is going to get him in a whole lot of trouble.

kellerman book 88298 (photo credit: )
kellerman book 88298
(photo credit: )
Trouble By Jesse Kellerman Putnam Adult 368 pages Jonah Stem needs a new pair of shoes, and shopping for them is going to get him in a whole lot of trouble. He's a third-year medical student, and his shoes, drenched by a patient's burst peritoneum, are making squishing sounds as he trudges toward Times Square after an 18-hour hospital shift, hoping to find a shoe store still open at 3 a.m. He's approaching 53rd Street when he hears a woman scream. Then he sees them: a woman down on all fours, dripping blood; a menacing man, wrapped in an overcoat that is too big for him, standing over her. Jonah has never thought of himself as a hero. He doesn't know why he does it, but he steps between them. The other man, it turns out, has a knife. As they scuffle, Jonah slips and is knocked unconscious. The knife ends up in the other man's throat. At first, the police seem skeptical of Jonah's story, but they can't poke any holes in it. The New York press dubs him "Superdoc" and trumpets his heroism. Eve Gones, the woman he rescues, calls him a hero, too, and she wants to get to know him better. Jonah succumbs to the temptation - one of a series of bad decisions that send his ordered life spinning out of control. Trouble is the second novel by Jesse Kellerman, the son of popular crime writers Jonathan and Faye Kellerman. He had an auspicious debut with Sunstroke, a quirky, noir detective yarn told in the voice of a sardonic narrator. But Trouble doesn't measure up to the promise of the first book. For one thing, the humor is gone, replaced by a grim, earnest narrator who dwells on the ugliest of details. Readers will require a high tolerance for graphic descriptions of surgeries, violence and sexual depravity. Worse, some plot elements strain the reader's credibility. Why would Jonah, an educated, intelligent man, agree to talk to the police without a lawyer present? After all, he has killed someone. Why, when he finally gets a lawyer, does he keep him in the dark about important things and fail to follow his advice? Why, as Eve Gones's behavior becomes weird and threatening, does Jonah hesitate to tell the police? He seems to think they won't believe him, but why wouldn't they? Does Jonah think he's the only one who's seen Fatal Attraction? The credibility problems peak about halfway through the book when little Eve overpowers strapping young Jonah, forcing him to have sadomasochistic sex on a desk at the hospital. How, exactly, could she have managed that? And yet, if you can overlook all of that, the characters are richly drawn and the tale is so suspenseful that it is almost Hitchcockian.