Best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman, known for his Alex Delaware mystery series, wins our December Tip of the Ice Pick award for his stirring new stand-alone thriller The Conspiracy Club. Protagonist Dr. Jeremy Carrier, like Delaware, is a psychologist, but there the similarity ends. Carrier is trying to put his life back together after the brutal murder of his live-in girlfriend, Jocelyn. The crime has never been solved, and in the absence of a better suspect, the police are keeping a close eye on Carrier. As details unfold, it turns out that Jocelyn's murder was even more grisly than the authorities had let on, a surgically precise dismemberment of the body in the manner of Jack the Ripper. Then Carrier receives an anonymous message, a medical document with an air of "clue" about it; in short order he begins to realize that someone is feeding him information about several murders, each mirroring the slaying of his beloved Jocelyn. Before the investigative noose tightens 'round Carrier's neck, he must identify the cunning psychopath who has thus far operated well under the authorities' radar. Kellerman unerringly develops his plots and subplots, keeping his reader on the proverbial seat's edge until the denouement. His characters are well-drawn and likable (even the villains, sometimes), and the pacing is near perfect, even for jaded longtime suspense-ophiles (like me, for instance).

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