Monday, November 14, 2011

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.
And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.
V: Victim. Violence. Vengeance.   ( synopsis from B&

Penguin Group (USA), Hardcover , 400pp

V is for Vengeance starts off with the story of a young man who meets a bad end at the hands of a loan shark and his brother. The book then moves to the present day of the book (1988) and starts off with Kinsey Milhone witnessing a shoplifting incident with two women.  One gets caught and the other literally drives over Kinsey in the parking lot making her escape.  Two days later, the woman who was arrested ends up dead in the same spot as the young man in the beginning of the book.  Kinsey is hired by the man who was engaged to the dead woman to find out what really happened because he does not believe she committed suicide. Kinsey is soon involved in uncovering a ring of professional thieves, a police conspiracy, blackmail, and a man with interesting family connections known as “Dante”. All the while she has an obnoxious reporter dogging her investigation and causing trouble.
Also weaving through the book is the story of an unhappy wife named Nora, who realizes her husband is cheating and takes steps to protect herself.  In the course of covering her bases financially, she meets Dante and begins an unlikely relationship with him. There is an interesting twist in the book that involves both of these people and ties into the modern day activities.
One of the things I enjoy about this series is the fact that it is set in the 80’s. Kinsey has to rely on research, hard work, and legwork to get her job done.  She has no internet or cell phone to do work for her.   I love it when she needs to get to a pay phone to call someone when she is out working on a case or making a carbon copy of something.  I find myself thinking “If she only had a ………”
Kinsey is a solitary person who has very few real relationships in her life.  She can only rely on herself this book reinforces that fact.  Her ex-boyfriend Cheney is working with a cop who hates Kinsey so she feels cut off from one of her resources. Her neighbor and best friend Henry is gone to visit an ailing relative so Kinsey doesn’t have him to run things by. She works and lives alone with the occasional acquaintance that comes into her life.  Her solitary nature is a running theme through all 22 books in the series and I felt she was particularly alone in this book.  It is a common theme for a male detective to be a “loner” but not so common for female sleuths.  It is possible the lack of people distracting her contributes to her strong intuition about cases and her excellent observation skills.
This book has plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. The continuity of the story from earlier books makes it enjoyable for long time readers but it can be enjoyed by a new reader as well. I wonder what we will all do when Ms. Grafton reaches the end of the alphabet!
RPL NOTE: This book will be available after 11-14-2011 in the Adult New Books section.  The audiobook will be available later in the month.

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