‘C’ is for Corpse by Sue Grafton 1986
Bobby Callahan asks private investigator Kinsey Millhone to look into an accident a year ago where he was run off the road and his friend Rick died in a car crash. He is brain injured and doesn’t remember much but believes someone wanted him dead. She is introduced to his shrink Dr. Kleinert, his wife Nola, Bobby’s mother Glen who is rich, his stepfather Derek and stepsister Kitty, who is anorexic and drug addicted. She’s rushed to the ER.
Grafton takes each possible suspect and has Kinsey grill them, sometimes in a friendly way and sometimes in her sarcastic hardliner way. Grafton throws in a few more suspects, including Rick’s angry parents. The characters are hiding something and Kinsey begins the task of finding out the truth, explaining her own method — she noses around, does background checks, uncovers a threat, and follows where it leads.
Kinsey and Bobby visit the crash site, and he remembers a notebook he gave to a friend. Kinsey recalls the accident in which a boulder hit her family’s car and killed her parents. She was in the back seat and pinned to the floor, listening to her mother dying. Kinsey is her mother’s maiden name. If that doesn’t make the reader sympathetic to Kinsey, nothing will.
Her landlord Henry has a girlfriend, Lila, who Rosa thinks is a snake. She doesn’t like Kinsey and brings up her low rent. Kinsey checks into her and discovers Lila is a con artist. It’s a subplot that explores Kinsey’s personal life and how much her neighbors mean to her. When she searches Lola’s room, she is almost caught hiding in the shower. Some tense moments of hiding foreshadow the ending when she runs and hides from the killer. Grafton likes Kinsey to face the bad guy on her own. She doesn’t have her gun, but she finds a handy weapon to save her own life and capture the bad guy.
A few things were hard to accept like operating an x-ray machine although Grafton talks us into buying it. I kept getting the two doctors mixed up and the roles they played. This is where reading the book a second time helps. I didn’t like Kinsey going to an abandoned building alone without a gun. I thought she was smarter than that.