Fortunately for readers, Faye Kellerman’s Dentistry doctoral degree couldn’t keep her from writing the consistently winning  Peter Decker/Rina Lazurus series. Starting  in 1986 with the Anthony Award-nominated TheRitual Bath, that book won the Macavity for Best First Novel and launched the series Kellerman has kept writing, in addition to producing other novels and short stories, some with two of her four children.

From this auspicious start, which expertly detailed the rituals of Jewish Orthodoxy, Kellerman took the pair to LA where we’ve watched the Decker’s extended family grow and change. One of the delights of the series has been the way their family life and traditions have been incorporated into the stories. She’s managed to keep the series fresh by changing the focus of each story, even taking readers to Israel on one occasion.

In this 20th in the series, Gun Games, the Decker’s are grandparents via Decker’s daughter and empty-nesters with their youngest child together finally off to college. They should be starting to enjoy some well-deserved alone time, but on the heels of the prior novel, Hangman, they’ve become temporary guardians to the teenaged son of notorious psychopathic gangster Chris Donatti, welcoming Gabriel Whitman into their home and family. Gabe is a talented pianist interested in composing music, a quiet and often secretive youth who, despite his worldly attitude, isn’t immune to the high emotional turmoil and roiling hormones of his biological age.

Interspersed with Gabe’s life and his lovely, believable romance, the story follows Decker at work as lieutenant detective when he and his team become involved in investigating the apparent suicide of a boy Gabe’s age who attended a prestigious prep school.

Then the second suicide of another teen from the same school leads the detectives to discover a nasty clique of privileged, wealthy students who harbor a thirst for bullying, guns and violence.

Decker’s team of Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver help him as he unravels the reality behind the unbelievable actions of this group of spoiled teens whose dark side has triumphed over their better judgement.

Kellerman does a wonderful job of showing us Decker’s growing comprehension as he struggles to believe what is truly happening. This parent thought he had a handle on teens, including Gabe, but it soon becomes apparent that he is out of his realm of knowledge and experience. Kellerman also has a grand handle on the emotional roller coaster that all teenagers face and shows how differently they handle this challenge.

When the dark group overlaps Gabe’s path, the ramifications become terrifying and deadly. Don’t miss this compelling thriller from a writer who knows how to explore her character’s personalities and tell an all-too-realistic and frightening story at the same time.