Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware, #1)” as Want to Read:
When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When the Bough Breaks

(Alex Delaware #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  59,577 ratings  ·  905 reviews
In the first Alex Delaware novel, we meet Dr. Morton Handler who practiced a strange brand of psychiatry. Among his specialties were fraud, extortion, and sexual manipulation. Handler paid for his sins when he was brutally murdered in his luxurious Pacific Palisades apartment. The police have no leads, but they do have one possible witness: seven-year-old Melody Quinn. It' ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 4th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published April 1st 1985)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When the Bough Breaks, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Melissa Not completely but I would recommend it. There are a few characters who become recurring and some personal developments for both Alex and Milo that do…moreNot completely but I would recommend it. There are a few characters who become recurring and some personal developments for both Alex and Milo that do happen chronologically. I would say if you have the ability to, read them in order. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  59,577 ratings  ·  905 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware, #1)
Diane Wallace
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Great read! a good storyline with detailed topic that was both sensitive and interesting..had good narrative with some well developed and defined characters (paperback!)
Bill Kerwin
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it

This novel—and this series--begins with child psychologist Alex Delaware enjoying a relaxed early retirement, a retirement fueled by burnout and precipitated by a shock. After weeks of interviews with a score of molested children in a particularly vicious pre-school case, Delaware returns to his office to find that their molester Stuart Hickle has killed himself--gun in mouth--on Delaware's own couch. Soon Alex's friend police detective Milo Sturgis coaxes him back for a simple consulting job, i
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
3.75. I have become a fan of Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus mystery series, so I decided to read her husband Jonathan's first book about Dr. Alex Delaware. Even though both series are about detectives, they are different in scope. Whereas Decker has been a cop for 20 years and looking to move up ranks, Delaware is a young, retired child psychologist who befriends a detective named Milo Sturgis and helps out on his cases. Additionally, Rina loves to get involved in Decker's cases, ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2020
My first book by this author and the first book in a series of thirty five! Bliss:)

Alex Delaware is a child psychologist who finds himself helping the police as a special consultant. However he does not stop at consulting but gets totally involved in solving the case himself. There is a lot of action and some very nasty deaths.

I liked the book very much especially the characters and the fast paced story. I felt the ending let it down a little with too many pages of the baddies confessing everyt
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was unbelievable of me never to have heard the household name of Jonathan Kellerman. I read his latest book in the series of Alex Delaware, then I nabbed the first book and compared them.

I thought there was too much doctoring going on. Too many people to be interviewed. But in the course of vigilante duty, our hero Alex hurts the opposition and also gets hurt in return.

I think among all the ex-shrinks whose books I've read, this author's resonates the most with me. Humanism is so important in
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Introducing Dr Alex Delaware, child psychologist, retired in his mid-30s through burn-out, and drawn into Detective Milo Sturgis’ murder mystery because of a small seven-year-old witness, Melody Quinn.

Alex was bored so when Milo arrived with his gruesome case, Alex wasn’t sure whether to be interested or disgusted. But - with his consultant badge - he joined Milo in the hunt for the killer and while Milo went off in one direction, Alex read through files, made phone calls and followed the clues.
Dirk Grobbelaar
This wasn't the first Alex Delaware novel I'd read. I had the good fortune of being introduced to Jonathan Kellerman with Monster. And what an introduction it was.

In my experience, the Alex Delaware novels are a bit hit and miss. Some are really good. Some just aren't.
This novel, however, was a winner of the Edgar award, and being a bit of a fan I decided to start the series from scratch. All things considered, and keeping the character development of Alex Delaware in mind, that is probably the
James Thane
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
This is the first book in Jonathan Kellerman's long-running series featuring Alex Delaware, a child psychologist. Burned out, Alex has retired from his practice at the age of thirty-three after consulting in a particularly unsettling case involving the young victims of a serial pedophile. The children are well on the road to recovery, but Alex is in desperate need of some down time.

But then Dr. Morton Handler, a psychiatrist, is brutally murdered along with his girlfriend in the apartment that t
This is the book that introduced child psychologist Alex Delaware ... along with his girlfriend Robin and homicide Detective Milo Sturgis. Originally published in 1985 there will soon be a 35th book in the series. The later books seemed to have lost direction (perhaps there are only so many story lines for a child psychologist + homicide investigation) but this first book is excellent (and for me well worth a reread).

Alex has retired from practice at the age of thirty-three after working with th
aPriL does feral sometimes
I love Milo Sturgis. I like Dr. Alex Delaware. Kellerman is a great genre author, and I will recommend him highly to everyone unless you are a cozy reader or hung up on propriety. Alex breaks the rules in the manner of 1970's TV private eyes who were fighting the good fight, like in 'The Rockford Files' or 'Magnum P. I.' He is a star, someone who can do anything, except walk away from criminality. He makes mistakes, but he is one of those individuals who is very smart, athletic and lucky. Despit ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
This series is consistently good. I am glad I found a go to author that will reliably write something I enjoy reading. This is the first in the series, and I decided to read them in order. I think it was a good decision. This book describes Milo and Alex first meeting, and the character building is important.
For me, character driven writing is what enables immersion in the plot. This author excels at it, and he definitely brings the protagonist to life. I am sure his background in psychology he
Jackie Ullerich
This was the beginning of it all! Jonathan Kellerman pulled me into the Alex Delaware series, hook, line, sinker. If you haven't checked it out. Do so! So good!
Karl Marberger
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: suspense, favorites
A thoroughly engaging, intricately plotted thriller to keep the reader thinking. I will definitely be reading more of the Alex Delaware novels.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining beach read, When the Bough Breaks netted Kellerman an Edgar award for best debut novel and spawned a series still that's still commercially viable after three plus decades. The writing is smooth and inoffensive without ever being great and I can see why Kellerman became successful. He writes lucidly, keeps the pace moving with a nice balance of intrigue, humor and action. However there is no way the protagonist - a retired child psychologist, Alex Delaware can keep being injected ...more
Kathy Davie
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Based in L.A., it's the first in the Alex Delaware thriller series and revolving around a child psychologist who took early retirement five-and-a-half months ago.

In 1986, When the Bough Breaks won the Anthony and Edgar Awards for Best First Novel.

My Take
Sneaky. Kellerman slides his story under your skin, smooth, easy, no great jolts and with Alex’s perspective in first person protagonist point-of-view. Once he has you hooked on the intriguing characters, then he begins to slide in those other ho
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman is the first book in the Alex Delaware Mystery series. Child psychologist Alex Delaware is lured out of retirement to consult with the police in the investigation of the murder of a psychiatrist and his girlfriend potentially witnessed by seven year old Melody Quinn. I had read several books in this series in the past but it was good to start at the beginning and understand how the friendship between Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis developed a ...more
Paul O'Neill
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think I just found a new series to get tucked into. I’d recommend this for all fans thriller / phychological thriller fans. This was interesting, written very well with lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. What more do you want from a thriller?

Although this story is charming and funny in places, it deals with very dark subject manner. Kellerman will whisk you away with some interesting psychology and then hit you with a horrowing sentence. Or he can lighten the mood nicely.

Jane Stewart
3 ½ stars. Slightly above average. Ok as a mystery.

The beginning was very good. I liked the way Alex investigated. Example, Alex needs to talk to a 7 year old girl who saw something. The girl’s mother is ignorant and poor and keeps the daughter on drugs to keep her quiet. Alex talks to the girl’s Doctor who prescribes the drugs. The Doctor won’t stop the drugs, he has a huge ego, he talks down to Alex. Alex befriends the girl. They go to the beach and a merry-go-round. There’s a whole mini story
Amanda Patterson
Dec 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Alex Delaware was brilliant in the beginning. A child psychologist who went where no crime 'detective' had been before.
Melody Quinn is a seven-year-old witness to crimes committed by a psychiatrist who has manipulated and extorted his patients for years.
Jonathan Kellerman had a beautiful beginning with Alex.
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
It's the first book in the long-running series, showing Alex Delaware just six months after his retirement, his mind scarred from trauma. Trying to get things kickstarted for his old bud, Milo (a homosexual homicide detective), enlists in the aid of the child psychologist for an especially troubling case. After following through with the favor of hypnotizing a small child, Alex finds he can't let go and continues forth with the investigation on his own.

It's a great introduction to the series, gi
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
First time reader of this author and now i am hooked. This was such a great, easy and creative series. i was hooked after the first page.

The characters were easy to fall in love with and follow, along with the story. the author made the mental visions so easy and vivid of the surroundings and the characters actions felt so real.

i would highly recommend this author and this series.
Larry Bassett
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Jonathan Kellerman began the Alex Delaware series in 1985 with the 29th book in the series scheduled for publication in early 2014. This review is being written in January 2014. I have a bookshelf of Alex Delaware books as I went on a used book buying binge after I first discovered Kellerman. I read Monster about a year ago. It has taken me a while to get back to him.

I am reading a couple of “serious” books but began casting around for a book that might be a page turner for me, something that
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marty Fried
I had mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it were entertaining, but other parts seemed pretty far-fetched. I wanted to like it, since there are so many in the series, and since this is only the first, I'll read more to decide.

I think the most far-fetched part is that a psychologist, who was traumatized finding a dead body in his office, could suddenly become a policeman with skills in fighting and handling the bad guys so well. It also seems like he did some things that were pretty illegal
Lisa Vegan
I really enjoy this mystery series. Both the author and the main protagonist are child psychologists, and so the books have many characters that are children, and I love reading books about kids. This is the first book in the Alex Delaware series. As with most mystery series, because of the growth & development & life changes of the recurring main characters, they should be read in order for the most enjoyment. ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The very first Alex Delaware novel. Dr Delaware must unlock the secrets of the case from a child's mind, and it interacts with his own past. This single link in a 40 year conspiracy leads Dr Delaware to uncover unspeakable evil.
Lisa Maddock
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've read everything Kellerman wrote. If you like mysteries and the added element of a character that continues throughout, you'll love these - I really enjoyed them! I think there is a new one out now...
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I read that this was the first Alex Delaware book Jonathan Kellerman had written (or at least published), I was actually looking forward to see how Alex and Milo met and became friends.

I thoroughly failed to realize that the operative word here was “book”. Not “case”. It was the first Alex Delaware book, not the first case for Alex and Milo. Their first case is actually mentioned, or better summarzied, but the story itself is about something different.

Daniel Kincaid
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Psychologist Alex Delaware is on early retirement, caused by six months of interviewing a handful of children being molested and abused. Then, the molester, Hickle, himself is found dead in Delaware's office, seeming committed suicide. These events affected Alex so much, he needed to time and space to find himself again. A few months later, Alex's best friend, detective Milo Sturgis, comes to Alex for help- a child is the only witness to a gruesome murder, but she's barely communicating. Relucta ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the first Alex Delaware book published (I've read several...all out of sequence) ...and it was very good; great plot, gave me the backstories of why Alex got out of an active therapy practice, and explained more about Milo's struggle being a gay man in the police force. All of this information satisfied my need for a beginning of the series. One thing to remember is the setting is in the mid eighties; the author mentions a tape deck, a 'Vega' (I owned one of those!), and a number of othe ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Crime, Mysteries ...: When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware #1) by Jonathan Kellerman - July 2019 8 33 Jul 29, 2019 11:29PM  
standalone or need to read in order? 3 7 Aug 18, 2018 10:48AM  
What illness did Towle have? 2 35 Oct 08, 2014 02:58PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)
  • Hide and Seek
  • The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus #1)
  • Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4)
  • Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross, #1)
  • Rules of Prey (Lucas Davenport, #1)
  • The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme, #1)
  • Milk and Honey (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus #3)
  • Ashes to Ashes (Kovac and Liska, #1)
  • Janet Evanovich Three and Four Two-Book Set (Stephanie Plum, #3-4)
  • 1st to Die (Women's Murder Club, #1)
  • Winter Prey (Lucas Davenport, #5)
  • Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)
  • One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)
  • A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)
  • Top Secret Twenty-One: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich - Review Summary
  • The Black Echo (Harry Bosch, #1; Harry Bosch Universe, #1)
  • The Coffin Dancer (Lincoln Rhyme, #2)
See similar books…
Jonathan Kellerman was born in New York City in 1949 and grew up in Los Angeles. He helped work his way through UCLA as an editorial cartoonist, columnist, editor and freelance musician. As a senior, at the age of 22, he won a Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award for fiction.

Like his fictional protagonist, Alex Delaware, Jonathan received at Ph.D. in psychology at the age of 24, with a specialty in the t

Other books in the series

Alex Delaware (1 - 10 of 36 books)
  • Blood Test (Alex Delaware, #2)
  • Over the Edge (Alex Delaware, #3)
  • Silent Partner (Alex Delaware, #4)
  • Time Bomb (Alex Delaware, #5)
  • Private Eyes (Alex Delaware, #6)
  • Devil's Waltz (Alex Delaware, #7)
  • Bad Love (Alex Delaware, #8)
  • Self-Defense (Alex Delaware, #9)
  • The Web (Alex Delaware, #10)
  • The Clinic (Alex Delaware, #11)

Related Articles

Need a reading high? Try these five books recommended by the thrills expert behind the new mystery The Murderer's Daughter
12 likes · 11 comments
“There were nights when I left the sessions physically and emotionally drained after hearing the anguish pour out like blood from a gaping wound. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different – psychotherapy is one of the most taxing endeavors known to mankind; I’ve done all sorts of work, from picking carrots in the scorching sun to sitting on national committees in paneled board rooms, and there’s nothing that compares to confronting human misery hour after hour and bearing the responsibility for easing that misery using only one’s mind and mouth. At its best it’s tremendously uplifting as you watch the patient open up, breathe, let go of the pain. At its worst is like surfing in a cesspool struggling for balance while being slapped with wave after putrid wave.” 13 likes
“Assholes are like weeds, a bitch to get rid of and when you do another one grows back in its place.” 9 likes
More quotes…