Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #4: V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

I love it when authors come up with a character that is so successful that it deserves a series of books. I’ve read all 18 of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, all 18 of Ian Rankin’s fantastic Inspector Rebus novels, and now I’ve just finished book 22 of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series featuring private detective Kinsey Millhone.  I like getting to know a character so well that its almost comforting to read about them doing the things they like best (Stephanie Plum likes to eat donuts, Inspector Rebus likes to drink and listen to classic rock, and Kinsey Millhone likes to eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches).

Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced, 38 year-old private detective (and former cop) in fictional Santa Teresa, California.  Kinsey lives in a studio apartment, spends a lot of time with her octogenarian landlord, Henry, as well as his older brother William and his wife Rosie, who own the local dive tavern where Kinsey eats and drinks most nights.  She doesn’t care much about how her hair and makeup look, she rarely wears anything other than jeans (she has one single black dress that has appeared in every book), and she drinks wine most nights, eats egg or peanut butter sandwiches, and tries to jog every day.

In this book, Kinsey witnesses a woman shoplifting at Nordstrom and reports her to security, leading to the woman’s suicide (or was it foul play?).  This sets off a chain reaction of events and introduces all of the main players, including a local mafia boss who runs a huge shoplifting ring, the wife of a wealthy doctor who finds out her husband is having an affair, a small-time thief who is in over his head, and a crooked local cop who will do anything to forward his career.  Kinsey gets mixed up in the middle of all of these characters when she is hired by the fiance of the shoplifter to find out why she jumped off a bridge and what was going on in her life to get her mixed up with all of these undesirable characters.  And Kinsey ends up with a broken nose and two black eyes.  On her birthday, no less.

One thing I enjoy about these books is that they take place in the 1980s — no cell phones, no internet, etc.  Kinsey has to solve her mysteries by writing her clues on index cards, writing reports on her typewriter, leaving messages for contacts on answering machines, and doing research at the library. If these stories took place today, Kinsey could do a quick Google search, text some contacts, and solve the crimes in half the time.  And no broken noses.

P.S.: If you’ve never read any of the Inspector Rebus books, I can’t recommend them highly enough.  They are fantastic.

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