“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 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 published 2001
This story had enough plots for three stories and drizzled out at the end as all the loose ends were tied up.
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 1999
At the beginning Grafton writes about Kinsey Millhone being caught in a time warp and 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 1998
This is one of those side trips for Kinsey. After playing nurse to “boyfriend” Dietz who 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.