“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.

“K” is for Killer by Sue Grafton

“K” is for Killer by Sue Grafton 1994

Janice Kepler comes to Kinsey to find out who murdered her daughter, Lorna, who was found decomposing in her cabin. Janice was sent a porn tape Lorna starred in.IMG_1888

Grafton’s descriptive phrases are more poetic and to the point as her writing evolved. While Grafton introduces a lot of new characters and spends time with them, most play minor roles in the story and the plot suffers. When Kinsey says she can’t find a motive, the reader is equally confused. The story has a lot of tentacles but not much punch by the end of the story. Grafton takes us down a lot of dead ends in this tale.

Lorna was a high-priced call girl who was making big dollars for retirement and independence. She meets vice cop Cheney Phillips and he seems dirty but not in this book. Dolan has had a heart attack and plays a minor role. Lorna was friends with disabled DJ Hector Morena and his dog, Beauty, who misses Lorna. He helps with a recording. Grafton introduces Lorna’s family: a concerned Janice, an indifferent father, Mace, and two ugly sisters Berlyn and Trinny who are jealous of Lorna. They know more than they should, and Kinsey tracks them down at the local bar where they’re trying to add excitement to their dull lives.

Kinsey takes a side trip to San Francisco to track down those involved in the porn video but it’s another dead end. Kinsey keeps seeing a man on a bike during her nighttime investigation. It is also a dead end.

The main story revolves around an oil company building a refinery, which is dropped in among the information at the beginning of the story. Grafton introduces Lorna’s part-time boss Roger Bonney, his jealous wife, the rich Clark Esselmann and his daughter, nurse Serena Bonney. Throw in a developer Stubby Stockton who livens up a rather dull board meeting but leaves the reader guessing what all the fuss is over. Esselmann, who is near death’s door, is only one vote on the board. Grafton doesn’t make it clear whether they were blackmailing Esselmann over his kinky sex with Lorna and didn’t like him changing his vote after a recent heart attack, which didn’t seem likely since Lorna was killed months before. I found myself scratching my head as I closed the cover. Feel free to explain your take on this mystery.

 

‘J’ is for judgment by Sue Grafton

‘J’ is for Judgment by Sue Grafton 1994

Grafton seems to be hitting her stride with this and the previous novel. Her writing shows a polish that makes reading quicker even though the plots are more IMG_1880complicated. This one has a nice surprise twist at the end.

Kinsey is approached by her former boss Mac Voorhies because a former employee saw Wendell Jaffe in Mexico. Wendell and his partner Carl Eckhert were part of a Ponzi scheme that stole millions from clients. Wendell faked his death off his yacht, The Captain Stanley Lord, and has been playing house with a rich widow Renata for five years. His wife Dana back home had him declared dead and filed for $500,000 in insurance from, you guess it, California Fidelity. They hire Kinsey to get to the bottom of it. She spies on Wendell and Renata but they leave before she can take a photo for proof. She also has to play a hooker to the man in the room next to Wendell, and he turns out to be a person of interest later on.

Kinsey gets to know Dana, her son Michael and his family and her son Brian, who is in a lot of trouble and could show up in a future book. She also befriends Renata. Carl now owns the Captain Stanley Lord and confesses there was $3 million hidden on it to keep investors from getting their money back.

Kinsey was “born to snoop” and is tempted when the occasion presents itself. She also makes friends with a lot of the women, returning to visit several times.

Grafton weaves plenty of twists and turns in the story about family secrets and betrayal. She also introduces Kinsey’s family she never knew about. Kinsey isn’t ready to meet her grandmother, aunts and cousins but I’m sure she will in the future.