Thursday, December 1, 2011

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton: A review

Kinsey Millhone just gets better with age. In V is for Vengeance, she turns thirty-eight. The year is 1988 and Kinsey is in her prime as a private detective. She is tough and smart, a woman of her word who lives to see justice done. Even if it is sometimes a rough kind of justice. 

In this entry in the long-running series, we find Kinsey shopping the lingerie department at a department store and there she witnesses a woman shoplifting several items. She reports the woman to a clerk who calls in the loss prevention people. The shoplifter is followed out of the store and then confronted about the unpaid-for items she's carrying. Ultimately, she is arrested and taken to jail. For Kinsey, it is a satisfying outcome, but then, a few days later, she learns that the woman is dead, an apparent suicide. But was it? 

Her fiance' is disbelieving and hires Kinsey to get to the bottom of what he believes is murder. Little could Kinsey have anticipated where the trail from that one death will lead her. 

She uncovers a large and very professional shoplifting ring and at its center is a dapper gangster with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, right next to him is his brother, the sociopath. There is the small-time criminal who gave Kinsey her first set of lock-picks and for whom she has a soft spot in her heart. He has run afoul of the professional criminals and is in big trouble. There's the annoying journalist, the upright cop who is Kinsey's friend and one-time lover, the bent cop who is her nemesis. There is a beautiful woman who has had much sorrow in her life and now is experiencing a new kind of sorrow with an unfaithful husband and is looking for a way out. There is a long, long list of interesting characters here and, for some of the leading actors, we get to hear their stories from their own perspective. But the main focus, as always, is Kinsey Millhone and it is her tale which ties all the others together. 

We always know that for every blow dealt Kinsey, she will find a way to extract, if not actually vengeance, a kind of equilibrium. Her fans will not be disappointed by the outcome of this case. 

As Kinsey has improved with age, so has her creator Sue Grafton. Ms. Grafton knows her craft. She writes with a sure hand. There are no hesitations or false steps along the way. She knows where she is going with this story and she leads us expertly through the clues, into the heads of the main characters, and finally to a satisfying denouement. I would rate this as one of the better entries in the Kinsey Millhone series. 

I wonder what W will stand for?

2 comments:

  1. I love these books! I am saving V for a reward for the holidays! W... Widow? That would be an interesting contest. What's your guess?

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  2. Actually, "widow" sounds like a good guess, Anonymous, but I expect Grafton to surprise us. Whatever it is, I'll be waiting in line to read it 'cause I love these books, too.

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