“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton 2007

The plot was simple with a woman stealing the identity of nurse Solana Rojas and taking over the life and wealth of Henry and Kinsey’s elderly neighbor, Gus. Grafton IMG_0789 (2)used Solana’s POV in this story and we see her cold-blooded motivation, which made her more terrifying. Kinsey and the others in the story don’t see Solana as a threat until it’s almost too late. Kinsey has broken up with Cheney although she has a short moment of regret when she sees him. Kinsey is driving a 1970 Mustang instead of her old VW, which was buried in the previous story. Kinsey is working on other cases and takes her time looking into Solana’s background a second time (the first didn’t show anything wrong) as her suspicions rise. By that time Solana has sold Gus’s antique furniture, emptied his bank account and is trying to sell his artwork and get a loan on his property. The story has a few shockers, violent confrontations, and a nail-biting ending.

This story hit home because a “friendly” couple helped my great aunt. In reality he was on disability, which he emphasized and they took over her finances claiming to be “helpful.” It was at a time when swindling the elderly was none of anyone’s business, especially when the elderly person praised all the “wonderful” things their helpers did for them. I was in my teens and smelled a rat, but she died before anyone thought to question their care or the fact they had positioned themselves to have access to everything before the estate was settled.

 

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“S” is for Silence by Sue Grafton

“S” is for Silence by Sue Grafton 2005

“S” should have been for sex. Grafton has several sex scenes that are tastefully done but not common in a mystery genre. She also writes several chapters back in 1953, the time IMG_0787 (2)of the disappearance of Violet, from the point of view of many of the suspects. In 1953 it appeared as if everyone had a motive and opportunity to kill Violet if she was murdered. Her daughter Daisy wants closure. She needs to know her mother didn’t abandon her or why she did leave without taking her.

We see Violet through many eyes including Daisy, Liza, her babysitter, Liza’s friend Kathy, and the men in town. Although her abusive husband is the prime suspect, Kinsey doesn’t leave anyone out of the investigation. The tires on her VW are slashed as a warning, but Kinsey brings her gun along on this trip.

I took notes to try to keep the characters clear but when the ending was revealed, I had to look back and figure out what was his motive. This novel was 374 pages, and I thought there were some loose ends. The pink notebook paper bothered me because it belonged to Kathy but implicated Tannie’s father. The scheme seemed complicated once the effort and timing needed to fulfill it was spelled out.

I also thought the motive was weak because the suspect had other, much easier, ways to obtain the money he needed. Kinsey also downplays a statutory rape incident and has a happy reunion of the two. This read like Peyton Place with all the affairs, illegitimate children, and interference by friends and relatives. But Grafton wasn’t afraid to try new things and many authors use multiple POVs in their novels today. Going back in time and seeing the people act out the events of 1953 and compare them to the lies they tell Kinsey in the present puts the reader into the story more. It also develops the characters and reveals more about them that can’t be seen from the private investigator’s POV alone.

“R” is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton

“R” is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton 2004

Kinsey babysits Reba Lafferty after serving a sentence for embezzling $350,000 from her boss Alan Beckwith. She was having an affair with him and took the fall for him, thinking he was going to leave his wife, Tracy. Reba bet the money away because IMG_0786 (2)she’s a gambling addict. Grafton has two side stories running in this book with Henry maybe having a girlfriend, Mattie, but his brothers appear to be hindering it. Also Kinsey sees Cheney Phillips at her friend Dana’s place, but she thinks he’s married. Cheney makes contact with Kinsey because the FBI is interested in Reba. Beckwith is into money laundering and they want to use Reba to incriminate him. After seeing pictures of Beckwith with his new girlfriend Onni, Reba’s best friend, she takes revenge herself, and Kinsey is busy doing damage control as Reba confronts Onni and Beckwith. They meet Marty, the accountant for Beckwith and end up surveying Beckwith’s new business building and discover his cash counting room. Reba is likeable but a ticking time bomb. Reba is one step ahead of Kinsey as she lifts $25,000 from the money room and heads for Vegas to gamble. Reba tries to help Marty, who is hauled off by Beckwith’s thugs and dies in the money room. Kinsey is kidnapped by Beckwith to lure Reba to the building. Kinsey comes off as a sidekick to Reba in this story. She also takes a beating because help is always too long in coming. Cheney seems to be too busy to realize he’s put Kinsey and Reba in danger, and the FBI aren’t concerned about their safety either which keeps the reader on edge about their fates.

Grafton wasn’t afraid to try new things and having Kinsey one step behind Reba guarantees she’ll get deep into trouble.

“Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton

“Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton 2002

Kinsey helps Lt. Dolan and retired cop Stacey Oliphant work on a cold case of a Jane Doe. They think Frankie Miracle did it because he had just killed his girlfriend. The quarry is IMG_0784 (2)located on LeGrand property of 2300 acres belonging to Kinsey’s grandmother. It forces her to meet more of her relatives including Aunt Susanna, who gives her a photo album that ends with her parents’ elopement. She visits Miracle’s old jail cellmate Pudge in jail right before he is let go. He tries to implicate Miracle. A witness saw a 1966 Mustang not Chevy that Miracle had stolen from his dead girlfriend. Iona is Miracle’s new girlfriend (they love bad guys) and defends him. Pudge dated Iona so they all know each other. The Mustang was stolen from the McPhee family home where Ruel, Edna and son Cornell and daughter Adrianne live. Cornell is married to Justine and has three kids. Justine is the daughter of the town drunk, Medora, who took in foster kid Charisse who was a lot of trouble. Dental records prove Charisse is the dead Jane Doe and things heat up as Kinsey closes in on who killed her.

There are several red herrings in this story but enough foreshadowing to guess the motive of the killing.

The story deals a lot with the friendship of Kinsey, Dolan and Stacey, especially when Dolan has a heart attack. Kinsey uses her charm to make friends with her suspects but it takes a long time for the tension and action to heat up.

The story was easy to follow and the tie to Kinsey’s family made it more interesting. Grafton spends a lot of time on description, her forte, but it makes the book appear padded since it runs 380 pages. Grafton shares how she was given the idea of a Jane Doe case and the fact she keeps a journal during the writing of her books, beginning with a workable story line.

“P” Is For Peril by Sue Grafton

“P” Is For Peril by Sue Grafton published 2001

This story had enough plots for three stories and drizzled out at the end as all the loose ends were tied up.IMG_0783 (2)

Kinsey is hired by Fiona Purcell to find her ex-husband Dr. Dowen Purcell who has been missing for nine weeks after leaving work. A past client from a previous book, Dana, is married to one of his two partners who are building retirement homes. Purcell was in charge of Pleasant Meadows, as assisted living facility, where we learn about Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and Purcell is the fall guy. Medical people shouldn’t try to be business people. That’s plot 1. Plot 2 involves Kinsey finding new office space and she signs a long-term lease with Richard and Tommy. Unfortunately an insurance investigators says the two brothers hired a man to murder their parents, rob the family jewels, and then turns up missing, presumed dead. The two brothers have gone through the money and the investigator wants to set them up with a fence to recover the jewels and arrest the boys for the murders they got away with. This news turns a budding romance for Kinsey with Tommy into dread and evasion. She finds her gun and puts it in her purse but they take it away after overpowering her. This is a lesson in which guns give you a false sense of security because unless you have the gun in your hand and aimed at the bad guy, you’re out of luck. This plot does has a rookie mistake that Kinsey should have checked into earlier. Plot 3 concerns Purcell’s second wife, Crystal and her daughter Leila, who at 14, is outmaneuvering the adults around her. Crystal’s affair with Clint is uncovered at the end with a big surprise and, of course, there was a pre-nuptial so no divorce without losing everything.

This story read like a soap opera with all the family problems aired in the pages. Kinsey does her research and those who want to learn about Medicare and Medicaid will find the pages informative. Others will skip over them.

“O” is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

“O” is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton 1999

At the beginning Grafton writes about Kinsey Millhone being caught in a time warp IMG_1883and living in 1986 instead of real time. Other authors have done that because the character would age too much in a long series written in real time. I will quote her final statement because I like it. “In my view, the delight of fiction is its enhancement of the facts and its embellishments of reality. Aside from that—as my father used to say—‘I know it’s true because I made it up myself.’”

Grafton has said little about Kinsey’s first husband but this book is all about Mickey Magruder, a vice cop 15 years older than her, and we learn about Kinsey’s strengths and weaknesses throughout the story. A sleazy buyer of a foreclosed storage unit sells her items Mickey had put in a box when she walked out on him at the age of 21. Mickey had asked her to lie about his whereabouts for an alibi for an involuntary murder charge. Kinsey had refused, not knowing he was with another woman, which would have given her a better reason for leaving. Kinsey has bad taste in men. If they aren’t married, they’re father figures like Magruder and Dietz.

Two detectives show up asking questions and tell her Mickey was shot with a gun registered to Kinsey. It was a wedding gift from Mickey. A true romantic. Mickey is in a coma, and Kinsey begins to rethink her quick judgment about the murder rap but realizes she was ready to leave him only after a few months of marriage. He liked living on the edge and she preferred stability. We are introduced to a lot of cops from Mickey’s past, not one but two mistresses, and his lawyer. The Honky Tonk where the cops hung out is now owned by one of the sons of a cop and Kinsey pokes her nose into a scam that may or may not be linked to the shooting of Mickey. The Vietnam War plays a role as the past comes to light, and Kinsey puts together the pieces that Mickey found, pushing her closer to the shooter and danger. Kinsey makes friends of the oddest characters including two old ladies and their cat, the reincarnation of their dead sister. The two detectives are inept and leave Kinsey to rescue herself with a little help from a new friend.

When you buy a used book, sometimes you discover a treasure. In this book, I found a review from the Akron Beacon Journal from Oct. 31, 1999. They liked the plot and fresh style that was lacking in recent novels but admitted Kinsey’s character is more interesting than any plot. Grafton was smart to dole out info on her in small portions.

Kinsey has covered her two husband’s histories. Now it’s time to look at her cousins and grandmother and ultimately her parents.

“N” is for Noose by Sue Grafton

“N” is for Noose by Sue Grafton 1998

This is one of those side trips for Kinsey. After playing nurse to “boyfriend” Dietz IMG_1884who had knee surgery, she heads to Nota Lake for a new client Selma Newquist, whose husband Tom died of a heart attack. Selma thinks Tom was worried about something and wants Kinsey to find out what it was. The townsfolk are the descendants of criminals but most of them are in police work. Kinsey goes through Tom’s messy belongings, sorting them and boxing them but doesn’t come across much except drawings of nooses and dates on his desk calendar. She talks to everyone and realizes his notebook is missing and nobody cares much for Selma, who was snobby. Kinsey is warned to let the case go and a man in a ski mask stalks her and attacks her in hotel room where she burns him with an iron. He dislocates her fingers. When she goes to hospital, Grafton vents about medical insurance through Kinsey. Grafton throws in some red herrings and more clues such as a woman walking on the road the night Tom died. Kinsey continues the investigation back home and finds a connection between two bad guys Tom was investigating. The story has some oddities. Selma demands Kinsey return to town where someone has spread the rumor she is a dope-crazed vigilante and killed two men. The reader knows it was self-defense but someone is setting her up. Kinsey trusts too many people in this story. She contacts the killer for no apparent reason and discovers too late her gun has been stolen. Again! The motive for the killings is different but makes sense. The number code was a bit silly. Tom wasn’t going to reveal the name even if he was a cop by the books. It was one of those secrets a good man carries to the grave.

 

“M” is for Malice by Sue Grafton

“M” is for Malice by Sue Grafton  1996

Kinsey’s former lover Robert Dietz returns into her life and he’s still a rolling stone while she plans to stay right where she is. She taps down any emotion, but when he leaves to visit his sons, it punches her in the gut. She has lunch with her cousin IMG_1885Tasha Howard, an attorney who offers her a job. Kinsey owes Tasha for bailing her out in an earlier story. Kinsey looks like her cousins and she’s trying not to warm up to them, but they are wearing her down for a family connection. Her sarcasm is strong. The job involves finding a missing heir after Bader Malek dies. He has four sons, Donovan, Guy, Bennet and Jack. Guy was the troublemaker who ran away from home. She needs to find him. A new will cutting Guy out of the inheritance can’t be found and the old one divides the $40 million equally. The brothers are not likeable. Donovan is all about work and neglects his wife Christie, who happens to be a friend of Tasha. Bennett is a drunk and poor entrepreneur and Jack golfs.

Kinsey identifies with Guy whose bad behavior included drugs, girls and stealing. Guy also cheated a widow before leaving town.

Kinsey finds Guy pretty easily in a nearby town where he found God thanks to Pete and Winnie. He’s a handyman at the church and around the small town. He said his parents gave him no direction or limits. He doesn’t ask about the money but initially thinks his brothers want to connect with him. Kinsey tells him the truth. They’re always fighting and don’t think he deserves his share of the money since Dad settled $10,000 on him when he left. Guy insists on visiting his brothers and they argue and drink, something Guy had given up. Someone leaks the rags to riches story to the press, crediting Kinsey with finding him. She suspects one of the brothers. They’re angry with her and she talks to the cook Enid and the nurse Myrna, who stayed after the father died. Guy turns up dead with his head bashed in while he slept in his bed about half way through the book.

Kinsey has formed a soft spot for Guy and so has the reader so you want to find out who did him in and why.

Meanwhile Dietz who left to visit his two sons, has returned and they begin working together although Dietz does a lot of paperwork while Kinsey interviews her suspects. She finds a typewriter in one of the brother’s rooms that was used to send the alerts to the media as well as write a threatening letter to Guy. She also picks apart Jack’s alibi when his friend Paul admits he left the country club during the time of the murder. In addition she learns more about the widow that had valuable famous letters stolen from her by Guy. We learn that old flame Jonah’s wife is expecting another man’s baby and his detective partner has the hots for him. Kinsey warns her about the ex and strong cord. She also mentions she has given up carrying a gun. So now she has to rely on wits alone. The story has a few surprises although one was heavily foreshadowed. With limited suspects the story is easy to follow and Kinsey’s character shines above the simple plot.

Akron Beacon Journal review

This review was printed in the Akron Beacon Journal June 24, 2018.

BOOK TALK: area authors and events Love tale set after Civil WarBest_ImpendingLoveandMadness_w12429_750

The Civil War is over, but there still is plenty of conflict in Cuyahoga Falls writer Laura Freeman’s Impending Love and Madness,

fifth book in a series about the six Beecher sisters of Darrow Falls, a Western Reserve canal town. Impending Love and War

began the series in 2014 with sister Courtney, an escaped slave and a lively courtroom scene. In succeeding books, the sisters travel to Washington City to nurse wounded soldiers and acquire beaus along the way. In Madness,

Jennifer and her husband, Logan, are joined by Cassandra and her hometown crush Zachary Ravenswood in a celebratory outing: They’re going to take in a play at Ford’s Theatre.

After the turmoil surrounding the Lincoln assassination dies down, the Ohioans prepare to return home. Zach is heir to an 800-acre horse farm and hopes it will provide financial security to allow him to marry Cass. While the men are waiting for their discharges to be official, the group scrounges up some surplus supplies and uses them to help a couple of Virginia families who lost their homes during the war. At first, the former Confederates are wary of the help; later, most of the onetime enemies are glad to put the war behind them, but a few remain openly hostile.

Discharge paperwork delays Zach’s return to his home, and he receives word that his grandfather has died and he now is the owner of the horse farm. When he arrives, he finds the house in disrepair, most of the staff gone and the accountant, Seymour, acting as if he owns the place. Seymour makes a pretense of grudgingly following the new owner’s orders, but in reality he may be planning something malevolent.

An afterword says that the final book in the series will be Impending Love and Promise;

it likely will concern finding a beau for Jules, the youngest Beecher sister. Impending Love and Madness

(352 pages, softcover) costs $16.99 from Wild Rose Press. Laura Freeman will appear at 10 a.m. Saturday [June 30] at Twinsburg Public Library, 10050 Ravenna Road, as part of Twinsburg’s “Our Living History Day.” Footnotes 

“L” is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

“L” is for Lawless by Sue Grafton 1995

Kinsey’s friend Rosie is marrying Henry’s brother William and she’s going to be a IMG_1886bridesmaid. Henry ask a favor of Kinsey, which can’t turn out well. His friend Johnny has died and his grandson wants him to have a veteran’s funeral but the paperwork comes back saying he never served. Kinsey looks into it and runs into the same dead end. She looks around his apartment and an old friend Ray Rawson shows up. Soon after, Johnny’s place is broken into and his son Chester from Ohio is angry. He thinks Johnny was a spy or something. They find a key in a hidden safe. Chester hires her to find out what is going on. She visits Ray and guesses that Johnny was in prison instead of the military, but Ray won’t confirm. She sees a man in a Stetson at Johnny’s. Stetson and a pregnant girl get on a plane and Kinsey follows.

The story has a few surprises and Ray’s mother turns out to be the most entertaining of the characters. (Think grandma in the Stephanie Plum series).

Kinsey is surrounded by unscrupulous bad guys but never takes her predicament too seriously. Although she isn’t above lying and snooping, she doesn’t think to take some of the money to pay for airfare so she can get out of danger and go home. She also sends a jacket off to the dry cleaners with a “key” hidden in it and never panics about losing it. It has some good moments but seemed like an exercise in description, especially with the fire scene. Kinsey calls her newfound cousin for help, and it’s one step toward reconciliation. After seeing Ray’s family, any family would be an improvement.