Thursday, December 8, 2011

V is for Vengence by Sue Grafton

I love serial books; the reoccurrence of characters that I get to know is so much fun. Everytime a new book comes out it's like meeting old friends and catching up!!
Kinsey Millhone is one of my favorite characters. If you haven't read any of these start with A is for Alibi.

Following U IS FOR UNDERTOW, Kinsey Millhone is back with a vengeance! She gets a 38th birthday "punch in the face and busted nose," in May 1988. A cake would have been nice. Kinsey is a pragmatist, "a big fan of forgiveness as long as I'm given the opportunity to get even first."

Reluctantly shopping at an upscale retailer, Kinsey spies Audrey Vance stealing expensive silk PJs. The civic-minded P.I. discovers that the woman is in cahoots with another and reports them both. Vance is arrested, while the other scofflaw nearly runs Kinsey down in the parking garage with a Mercedes. Vance is later found dead, an apparent suicide, but homicide is soon suspected.

In a parallel plot, Lorenzo Dante, Jr., known simply as Dante, is a loan shark with alleged Mafia ties. Dante has quite an inferno of illicit businesses burning --- and a red-hot romance with a powerful attorney's wife. One of those enterprises is a highly organized ring of shoplifters, whose kingpin was Audrey Vance. Vance's unsuspecting fiancé hires Kinsey to investigate what he thinks are bogus shoplifting charges, and the improbable suicide. Thrown into the mix are a corrupt cop, and a gambling addict who sells his soul to Dante.

Predictably, characters face death during the investigation, and Kinsey is pulled into the vortex. Ghosts from novels past haunt Kinsey, even likeable petty criminal Pinky Ford is instrumental in the dénouement. Vixen reporter Diana Alvarez from "Undertow" is a thorn in Kinsey's side but eventually proves beneficial. Heartthrob and former flame Cheney Phillips keeps readers guessing if the fire will rekindle. Unfortunately, friend and landlord Henry is away, visiting one of his ancient siblings with a broken hip.

The structurally complex plot is simplified with the help of Kinsey's index cards that are "like the pieces of a puzzle that would fall into place once I understood what I was looking at." That, and her intuition. "The purpose of intuition is to warn us when the wolf arrives at the door dressed as Little Red Riding Hood."

Any Sue Grafton novel reads like a welcomed but long-overdue letter from the iconic private eye, bringing readers up to speed with her latest escapade. The queen of Alphabet Soup-titled mysteries (who earned the title of Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America) has made a quantum leap by taking on social issues in the last few of her 22 too-realistic-to-be-fiction works.

With perpetrators identified early on, this is more of a whydunit than a whodunit, validating Grafton's title of Grand Master bestowed by her peers. While Kinsey--an average Jo--has learned to leap hurdles in her career, Sue Grafton has become an Olympic-class pole vaulter in hers. Impeccable plot, prose as rich as Wall Street, and everyone's favorite investigator make this a sure-fire bestseller.

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