A Measure of Darkness: A Novel

A Measure of Darkness: A Novel

by Jonathan Kellerman, Jesse Kellerman

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Deputy coroner Clay Edison goes to extreme lengths for a forgotten Jane Doe in the new thriller from a father-son team of bestselling authors who write “brilliant, page-turning fiction” (Stephen King).

“As for the keen sense of drama, it must be a genetic trait. . . . The Kellermans show compassion for the survivors, including conscientious officials like Edison.”—The New York Times Book Review

Former star basketball player Clay Edison is busy. He’s solved a decades-old crime and redeemed an innocent man, earning himself a suspension in the process. Things are getting serious with his girlfriend. Plus his brother’s fresh out of prison, bringing with him a whole new set of complications.

Then the phone rings in the dead of night.

A wild party in a gentrifying East Bay neighborhood. A heated argument that spills into the street. Gunshots. Chaos.

For Clay and his fellow coroners, it’s the start of a long night and the first of many to come. The victims keep piling up. What begins as a community tragedy soon becomes lurid fodder for social media.

Then the smoke clears and the real mystery emerges—one victim’s death doesn’t match the others. Brutalized and abandoned, stripped of ID, and left to die: She is Jane Doe, a human question mark. And it falls to Clay to give her a name and a voice.

Haunted by the cruelty of her death, he embarks upon a journey into the bizarre, entering a hidden world where innocence and perversity meet and mingle. There, his relentless pursuit of the truth opens the gateway to a dark and baffling past—and brings him right into the line of fire.

Praise for A Measure of Darkness

“Edison is an interesting protagonist, a good man for whom finding the truth is more important than anything else, including his own safety. He’s gentle and strong, compassionate and ruthless, methodical and impulsive. A strong sequel to Crime Scene that will leave readers wanting to see more of Edison.”Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399594649
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Series: Clay Edison , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 20,231
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than forty crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, True Detectives, and The Murderer’s Daughter. With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. With his son, award-winning playwright and bestselling novelist Jesse Kellerman, he co-authored Crime Scene, The Golem of Hollywood, and The Golem of Paris. He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live in California, New Mexico, and New York.

Jesse Kellerman won the Princess Grace Award for best young American playwright and is the author of Sunstroke, Trouble (nominated for the ITW Thriller Award for Best Novel), The Genius (winner of the 2010 Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle), The Executor, and Potboiler (nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel). He lives in California.


Beverly Hills, California

Date of Birth:

August 9, 1949

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974

Read an Excerpt


Friday, December 21

They were going to have a nice evening together. Hattie had been planning for a week, since Isaiah called to tell her he was home from school. He wanted to know was it okay for him to come by and pay her a visit.

Okay? How could it not be? Hattie couldn’t remember when she’d last seen her grandson. That distressed her, both the not-­seeing and the not-­remembering. A year? Maybe longer. Too long, at any rate.

It got lonely. She didn’t get many visitors. People had their own lives. Her children had gone and gotten children for themselves. They’d found places in the world. That alone was proof of a life well lived.

It got lonely, though.

Curtis—­Isaiah’s father, her youngest—­made the drive down once a month or so. You’d think it was a thousand miles instead of forty. Hattie sometimes made up reasons to call him. The kitchen outlets did go bad a lot. Standing at the breaker box, he would remind her again in that weary patient way of his that the whole sub-­panel needed replacing.

Her baby boy, graying. It must have happened at some point that she stopped scolding him and it started coming back the other way. There must have been a day.

She couldn’t remember that, either.

The neighborhood’s changing he said.

She fixed coffee and let him make his case. They were fleeing the city, pouring over the bridge. Computer people. Couldn’t be stopped. They wanted to be near the train. Ten minutes to downtown San Francisco. They paid cash. Did she know what she could get for this old place?

He took after his own father. Unsentimental.

It’s too much house for one person he said.

And where was she supposed to live, according to this plan?

With us.

Hattie snorted. I guess you didn’t ask Tina how she feels about that.

Mom, please. She’d love to have you.

He was missing the point. Change was nothing new to her. All her life she’d lived in Oakland, half those years on Almond Street, and never could she remember the scenery standing still. Now he expected her to pick up and run? What from? White folks wielding new countertops?

She’d weathered worse.

Not to say she wasn’t tempted. Most of her friends had left, passed on, or else lost their leases. Curtis wasn’t the only one trying to show her the light. Real estate agents kept calling her up, knocking on her door, sliding their slick postcards into her mailbox.

Please call me to discuss an exciting opportunity.

Once she went to put out the trash, and a young fellow in a jacket and tie appeared at her side. Hattie thought he must have been sitting in his car, waiting for her. Like an eel, darting out from the rocks to snap. He offered to bring the can down to the curb for her.

No, thank you, she could manage on her own.

He left her with a card (sean godwin, licensed realtor) and a sheet of paper listing recent neighborhood sales. On Almond Street alone there were three, including the big wreck across the street. A ruined beauty, with a cratered roof, blank window frames, walls spray-­painted in wrathful scrawls. Hattie’s eyes nearly fell out of her head when she saw the price. She counted the string of zeros and expected bulldozers any day.

The buyer was a white lady, with other ideas. Plank by plank, dab by dab, the skeleton knit itself back together, grew flesh, skin, acquired a healthful glow. Hattie monitored the process through her curtains. A crew of Spanish men did the heavy work. Often, though, she saw the lady herself out there, her and her husband, or boyfriend more likely, smoking and laughing as they rolled paint, drove out a horde of raccoons. Or the lady alone, wearing overalls to hang wire for a chicken coop. Planting bamboo that rose to shut out the world.

Everything changes, nothing remains. Hattie knew that. She accepted it. Truth be told it excited her a little—­the unexpected. Her husband, God rest him, called her a dreamer. She used to hide her mystery novels under the kitchen sink so he wouldn’t lecture her.

For this reason, perhaps, she harbored a particular closeness to Isaiah: he was a dreamer, too.

I might come by and see you, Grandma. Is that okay?

Was it okay.

Hattie baked a coconut cake.

Isaiah clocked her disappointment as soon as she opened the door. She’d begun moving in for a kiss, freezing as her eye picked out the metal bead snugged in the crease beneath his lower lip, as though it might sting her.

He was going to have to take the initiative. He brought her into his arms and held her against him, smelling her scalp, the floral bite of her hairspray. She felt like straw.

“Good to see you, Grandma.”

“You too, honey.”

She didn’t say a word about the stud. He did catch her staring over dinner, or maybe that was him being paranoid. On the train down, he’d thought about taking it out, but he wasn’t supposed to do that for a month or the hole could close up. He was aware of gumming up consonants—­F, V, P, B—­the backing clicking against his teeth. Certain foods presented a challenge. Hattie had prepared enough for ten. Chicken, beans, yams. He didn’t dare refuse. He chewed with purpose, seated beneath the portrait of Grandpa William in his starched Navy uniform.

“How are your parents?” she said.

“Fine.” His mother had seen the piercing and sighed. Isaiah. ­Really. “They say hi.”

“Tell me about school. What classes are you taking?”

Structure of the Family, Imagining Ethnography, Comp 2, American Cultural Methodologies. He’d settled on sociology as a major.

“Next semester I have a class on interviewing,” he said. “I’m gonna call you up.”

“Me?” She waved him away. “What for?”

But he could tell she was pleased. “You’ve seen some things,” he said.

“I’m old, you mean.”


“It’s all right,” she said. “I am old.”

She carried his empty plate into the kitchen, returning with a high cake smothered in coconut flakes and thick buttercream frosting. She fetched clean plates and a knife and bent to cut him a huge slice. He was trying to figure out how to decline when from out in the street came a deafening belch of static.

“Shit,” he said, twisting in his seat.

Hattie clucked her tongue at him.

He spread his palms on the vinyl tablecloth. His heart was going. “What was that?”

She shook her head.

He pushed back his chair, went over to the bay window, parted the curtains. The side gate of the mansion across the street was propped, and a portly, bearded white man was unloading a van, dollying a keg up a path toward the backyard.

“Someone lives there?” he said.

“A lady bought it,” Hattie said.

“What lady?”

“She calls herself an artist.”

Isaiah studied the house, its windows warm, multicolored lights outlining the eaves. As long as he could remember, the place had served as a lair for junkies and squatters. Growing up—­before his parents dragged him and his sister out to the suburbs—­he had been forbidden from going anywhere near it.

A second blast of static made him jump.

“She’s probably having one of her parties,” Hattie said. She tapped the plate with the back of the knife. “Eat up, honey.”

In the time it took him to consume his dessert there were four more eruptions of noise, a man’s amplified voice: Testing, one two, one two.

House music boomed.

Isaiah set down his fork. “Don’t they have any respect?”

“It’s not that bad,” Hattie said.

“Are you kidding? It’s like a bomb going off.”

“Since when did you ever hear a bomb?”

“You can’t sleep with that,” he said.

“It’ll be over by midnight.”

He goggled at her. “Midnight?”

She shrugged.

The music cut out a few minutes later, as he was setting his backpack down on the guest room bed. The silence was as startling as the noise, causing him to tense all over, and then to flood with hot relief.

He dug out his phone. Tuan had texted him an address. Isaiah replied he’d be there in thirty and went back downstairs, calling, “Yo Grandma.”

He found her hunched over the sink, skinny arms inside floppy yellow dish gloves.

“Yes, honey?”

“Hey,” he said. Faltering, because she looked so frail. “Why don’t I do that for you?”

“Guests don’t do the dishes.” She gestured toward the living room, flinging soapy droplets. “Make yourself comfortable. Jeopardy!’s on. I’ll come join you when I’m done.”

“Yeah, okay. Just,” he said, scratching at his neck, “I kind of told some friends I might meet up with them.”

In the brief interval that followed he watched an unspoken hope of hers crumble.

“But I can stay,” he said.

“Don’t be silly. You go have fun. Which friends?”


“That’s Gladys Coombs’s boy.”

He nodded. He didn’t mention Tuan, she wouldn’t approve.

“It’s nice you two keep in touch,” Hattie said.

“Yeah, for sure.”

She stripped off the dish gloves and went over to the kitchen table. Taking her pocketbook from her purse, she extracted a ten-­dollar bill. “Here.”

“That’s okay, I’m fine.”

“Go on. Make an old lady happy.”

He accepted the money. “Thanks, Grandma.”

“You’re welcome. Get the key off the hook before you go.”

She presented her cheek.

He pursed his lips out far to kiss her, so that she wouldn’t feel metal.

Customer Reviews

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A Measure of Darkness 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Teacher68 5 months ago
Having read almost all of the "family" Kellerman books, Jesse (being a new author) is going to be a great writer in his own time. It took awhile to get into the story line, but eventually I had trouble putting it down and had to finish it. Will give other books of his a chance and look forward to watching him grow. On a side: I was curious as to why other reviewers wrote so many details about the story, and not about their feelings when reviewing the book. Most of these reviews did not help in the least on whether or not I wanted to read the book. If I want a synopsis of the story, I read the book jackets, not the reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First Kellerman that I had trouble keeping my interest, I finally finished but didn’t understand the last few pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I’ve carried this book around on the Nook since it came out. I’ve tried and tried to get into it. I’ve even re-read several chapters. Sorry, but this really is a disappointment.
mysteryfanatic1 More than 1 year ago
This is the second book with Jesse writing with his father i have attempted to read. Sorry i managed the first chapter and had to put the book down. I am an avid reader of many authors esp Jesse's parents. I certainly cannot give this book high marks for anything. It is bland nothing draws you in to the story his characters have nothing to offer what so ever. Maybe he will get better glad i did not purchase this one like i purchased his first novel that was bad also
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book
C-Rae More than 1 year ago
Mundane is the word that kept coming to mind as I kept trying to find my place in a story line that was mundane, The run-of-the-mill conversations bothered me the most; throwing in Alex Delaware as a touchstone to dad was really pointless. The Delaware character is solid; Clay Edison has a long road to travel finding better developed story lines, stronger continuing characters and please, a solid vocabulary. I'll not buy this series again as this book will be donated to my county library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes a while to get started but it all comes together. Good read!
LEH0644 More than 1 year ago
A group of teens confront a neighbor over their loud noise and shots are fired. Several people are killed including a young boy when a bullet enters the room where he is sleeping. While investigating, police find the body of a young girl who has been strangled in a toolshed in the backyard of the party house. No one seems to know the name of the victim and she is marked as Jane Doe. Investigations lead police to an alternative private school. This leads police to the real reason the woman was murdered. I received an ARC of the book from Goodreads and was disappointed in the writing and did not think it was as good as previous Kellerman books.
saberle More than 1 year ago
A Measure of Darkness is the second installment in the Jonathan Kellerman and son Jesse Kellerman’s Clay Edison series. Each entry is better than the last. In this case Coroner Investigator Edison and his team investigate a series of killings occurring at a West Oakland, California party. Several victims are dead and there are numerous causes of death. It is a gruesome scene that requires countless hours of investigation. The story follows Clay as he investigates the victims as well as possible suspects. Each avenue of investigation is twisted and full of lies and inconsistencies. Exactly what all investigators face daily. The story meanders but like any good detective, when all the clues are in the reader is rewarded with the solution to the crime.
MonnieR More than 1 year ago
After I finished the debut book in this series, "Crime Scene," last year, I knew I'd keep going. And sure enough - thanks to an advance review copy from the publisher - I got my chance at the follow-up. It is, I believe, better than the first, thus signaling that the father-son author combo may have found its groove. What it lacks in down-and-dirty action is more than compensated for by interesting, likable characters, a good story and expertly turned phrases. At its heart, though, it's a fairly basic police procedural; the main character, Clay Edison, is a deputy in the Coroner's Bureau. He's got Amy, his live-in love, a wayward just-out-of-jail brother with whom he has a love-hate relationship and, at the start of this one, some dead bodies that went bump in the night. But one of those bodies is not like the others; she was found elsewhere on the property, was strangled rather than shot and her identity can't be determined. Intrigued, Clay sets out to rectify that latter point, and once accomplished, begins to work on the whodunit and why. That trail leads to the victim's childhood school - a private one that touts total freedom for the students (think Montessori on speed). As all this is unraveling, Clay continues to work on the case of the other victims, one of whom has an identity crisis of his (or her) own. In the middle of it all, here comes his brother Luke - with a rather brash fiance in tow - claiming to be a changed man and offering Clay an investment deal guaranteed to earn a pot of money. Beyond that, the whole thing is a fairly straightforward look at how all of Clay's professional and personal scenarios are resolved (including his relationship with Amy). Although I'd personally like fewer characters to keep straight, most things get sorted out by the end (leaving, perhaps, one or two little issues unresolved, presumably to be continued in the next adventure. For sure I'll be watching for it!
WordPassion More than 1 year ago
Picture this: beautiful old home languishing as a crack house in West Oakland, purchased and renovated into its original beauty and now the frequent site of some pretty weird parties. Words passed between the uninvited and attendees, bullets flying from both sides, and bodies left behind. Deputy coroner Clay Edison is pulled in to sort it all out. One body's a surprise however. A young girl strangled and left in the backyard shed who nobody remembers from the party and no identifying information. Edison makes it a mission to determine just who this girl is and in unraveling the thread, finds a connection to an 'alternative' school and back again. A great story with fantastic connections of all the key players.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story started a little slow and choppy. But, stayed with it and did start to flow and turned into a good read!