The conversationalist

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

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 byhis cruel father who “brutalized his family.” His mother “was a childwhen she married” and she is completely cowed by her husband. They werewed after she became pregnant with Christopher, Geist’s older brother.The father physically abused Christopher, finally beating him soseverely that Christopher ran away in his father’s truck and went offthe road, dying in an accident. It was never clear as to whether or notChristopher had actually committed suicide.
Befriended by the local Catholic priest, Geist studied philosophy withhim and was encouraged to seek admission to Harvard where he graduallydid well and was urged to pursue a doctorate. Now, as his relationshipwith Yasmina is ending and his dissertation progress is at astandstill, he answers an ad for a “conversationalist” and begins arelationship with Alma Spielmann, an elderly, wealthy lady, originallyfrom Vienna. She is interested in philosophy and they have lengthydiscussions, leading eventually to her inviting him to live in herlarge house. Things begin to deteriorate as her poor health gets worseand a scheming nephew appears on the scene. The ensuing developmentsare hellish with dire and disastrous consequences.
This intriguing story grips the reader’s attention as it proceedsinexorably to its calamitous conclusion. Kellerman makes full use ofhis own experience as a Harvard undergraduate in providing a backdropfor his riveting tale. When Jesse Kellerman’s parents get ready to passthe baton, they can do so with full confidence that the next generationwill live up to the high standard they have set.
Author Jesse Kellerman is the 31-year old son of Faye and JonathanKellerman, both successful mystery writers. Jonathan Kellerman, aformer clinical psychologist, has written many thrillers featuring AlexDelaware, a forensic psychologist and special consultant to the LosAngeles Police Department. Faye Kellerman, trained as a dentist, is ahighly successful detective story writer. Her chief characters are“Rabbi” Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. She has recently published anovel for teens, written with her daughter, Aliza. The family membersare observant Jews and Jesse Kellerman spent a year in Israel studyingat a religious seminary. However, only Faye Kellerman features Jewishcharacters in her books.
The Executor is Jesse Kellerman’s fourth novel. Although he has agraduate degree in playwriting, he prefers to write fiction since hedoesn’t have to share responsibility with a play’s director. His threeprevious novels, The Genius, Trouble and Sunstroke, were all wellreceived mysteries. This latest book will undoubtedly add luster to hisalready fine reputation and will reinforce the high esteem fully earnedby 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.