Alex-less Can there be a Jonathan Kellerman mystery novel without Alex Delaware and his psychologist's smarts? Indeed there can, and Billy Straight (4 hours) proves it. The Billy of the title is a 12-year-old boy who's run away from his horrific home and is doing his best to survive alone in the Hollywood hills when he inadvertently witnesses a vicious murder. The victim, the glamorous ex-wife of a TV star, draws press, public, and of course police attention. Enter a new Kellerman sleuth, Petra Connor, an LAPD homicide detective with her own unhappy baggage, a good heart, and the right stuff to make her a good cop. Petra is appealing and worthy of encore appearances, but it's Billy who steals the show and makes this new novel so compelling. Dr. Delaware does turn up briefly and, fortunately, John Rubenstein, noted narrator of the Doctor's deeds, is on hand for the new crew too. Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.

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