'Alphabet series' latest letter of intent seeks 'vengeance'
"V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton; Putnam, 448 pages. ------ As the alphabet winds down, Sue Grafton has only four more novels until she can officially retire Kinsey Millhone. Who knows what will happen to the erstwhile private detective when "...
"V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton; Putnam, 448 pages.
As the alphabet winds down, Sue Grafton has only four more novels until she can officially retire Kinsey Millhone. Who knows what will happen to the erstwhile private detective when "Z is for (anybody's guess)" is published.
With the series' end in sight, it would be easy for Grafton to coast through these last installments. Grafton's solid fan base will follow Kinsey, if nothing else than just to see what's going on with this fiercely independent detective. Kinsey's popularity has weathered even those novels -- "F" through "I" and a few other letters -- that were lackluster.
But Grafton seemed to renew her energy and focus once the series reached the middle of the alphabet. Around "O", Grafton began depicting new aspects to the private detective everyone thought they knew as Kinsey became embroiled in deeper and more involved plots.
The intriguing "V is for Vengeance" maintains Grafton's high standards. This superb 22nd entry is indeed about vengeance with all of its messy ramifications. But it also is a gripping, multi-layered story about the high cost of shoplifting, gambling addiction and the challenges of fresh starts.
"V is for Vengeance" finds Kinsey a few weeks shy of her 38th birthday, which affords the detective, who is not known for her introspection, a chance to look at her life. The pending birthday also propels the decidedly unfashionable Kinsey to shop in Nordstrom's lingerie department. The idea that Kinsey, whose wardrobe consists of jeans, turtleneck sweaters and one black dress, would venture to Nordstrom's is mind-boggling and Kinsey is seduced by the store and one terrific sale.
But no sale can distract Kinsey when she notices a woman shoplifting. Kinsey alerts the store security, which leads to the woman's arrest. But a few days after her release, the shoplifter commits suicide. The woman's fiancé hires Kinsey to find out why this rather conservative, quiet middle-aged woman would kill herself.
Kinsey's investigation leads to a pair of mobster brothers and a multi-million shoplifting ring that has far-reaching satellites.
"V is for Vengeance" illustrates Grafton's skill as a solid plotter. The breathless story takes several logical twists that lead to a believable finale. Grafton has shaped Kinsey into one of the icons of the mystery genre, whose sense of humor, sarcasm and attitude continue to serve her well. But Grafton never neglects supporting characters. Here, Grafton shows the myriad sides of a mobster, who is a ruthless businessman with boundless compassion to those he really loves, as well as a wealthy, pampered woman seeing her marriage crumble.
With just a few letters left, "V is for Vengeance" proves that Grafton is making the most of them.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.