“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.

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‘I’ is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

‘I’ is for Innocent by Sue Grafton 1992

Big changes for Kinsey in this story. She was fired from California Fidelity Insurance IMG_1882and lost her adjoining office space. Now she’s working for attorney Lonnie Kingman and takes over the investigation of a case after Morley Shine dies of a heart attack. The files are a mess and she has to track down information and interview witnesses from the criminal case where David Barney is acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Isabelle. Kingman is bringing civil charges against him.

For anyone who wants to understand the legal system and how it works, Grafton describes the process in this book and gives a good overview of what is going on before a trial. David looked like a good suspect. Isabelle was the one with the money, and he would lose financially in a divorce. He was obsessed with her and harassed her like a love-struck stalker, and a gun went missing at a party where all the suspects were present. Unfortunately, several witnesses place him too far from the crime scene to have done the shooting, and Kinsey has to find out who did the murder.

Grafton moves in two circles of suspects. Isabelle hurt her family and friends in one way or another. She also adds a subplot about a fatal hit and run that turns out to be the key to the murder. The other circle of suspects revolves around Morley and that holds several surprises.

This one has a surprise punch after a few jabs and was one of the best so far.

‘H’ is for Homicide by Sue Grafton

‘H’ is for Homicide by Sue Grafton 1991

When I was half-way through this book, I realized I had read it before but only IMG_1859remember parts of it. Grafton departs from her usual story plot and places Kinsey undercover instead of investigating a crime. It starts with Parnell Perkins dead in the parking lot and a new boss, Gordon Titus. Someone is filing false claims and Kinsey tracks down Bibianna Diaz. She befriends her at a bar where she runs into an old classmate, Jimmy Tate, who was a cop but got into trouble. While eating, Bibi’s old boyfriend, Raymond Maldonado, who is head of the insurance fraud scam, sends his brother and his wife to bring Bibi back. Tate shoots the man, wounds the woman, and Bibi and Kinsey are arrested. She uses a fake ID of Hannah. Dolan asks her to go undercover and find evidence against Raymond.

Grafton wanted to have some fun with Kinsey. She gets to dress up and try on a street-wise girl personality, she gets to go to jail and make new friends, and she is held as a friendly hostage in Raymond’s apartment where a pit bull takes a fondness for her. She figures out where the files are and has plenty of names but hangs around longer than common sense dictates although Grafton tries to justify the delay. But what really doesn’t make sense is Dolan leaves her out to dry without any contact or help. She is on her own even though an LAPD cop is with the gang. Nobody seems to realize how dangerous Raymond is. The book is short, 200 pages, and could have used some different twists and turns. Dolan certainly owed her an apology and instead puts her on hold when she finally gets a phone in her hand and calls him. What???

 

‘G’ is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton

‘G’ is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton 1990

Grafton reveals more about private investigator Kinsey Millhone who is celebrating her 33rd birthday on May 5. A fellow Taurus. She is also 5 foot 6 inches and 118 IMG_1861pounds. I like her even more. Her apartment, which was blown up in ‘E’ is for Evidence has been rebuilt thanks to her wonderful neighbor Henry. She is hired to find Agnes, 83, the mother of Irene Gersh who lives in the desert. She also finds out a hitman has been hired to kill her because of her work to put Tyrone Patty in jail. The girl is popular. The two problems intersect when the hitman, with his 5-year-old son in tow, runs her VW off the road. This leads her to hire a bodyguard, Robert Dietz. Agnes keeps talking about falling chimneys and the Bronte sisters and escapes from the nursing home her daughter puts her in. The search leads them to the home for the elderly. The hitman shows up and Irene has a meltdown. A tea set her mother had in the desert also sets her off. In the midst of all this, California Fidelity has a retirement party, and Vera sets Kinsey up with a blind date, only to have Kinsey turn the tables on her so that she ends up with the doctor. Kinsey and Dietz discover their own chemistry. Agnes is found but dies of what the medical examiner calls “fright.” The hitman kidnapped his son, and Dietz contacts the mother. The hitman doesn’t kill for money. He likes it. While Kinsey is evading being shot by the hitman, she helps Irene figure out the secrets Agnes went to the grave with and why.

Kinsey spends most of this book black and blue and still manages to attract Dietz, who is so much like her, it’s a bet he’ll return in the future. This was a simpler story without too many suspects. Grafton revealed a little more about Kinsey’s personality and if you haven’t read any other books, reveals her parents were killed in an accident. Her aunt, who died 10 years ago, told her no sniveling. Her life was molded by those events.

 

Impending Love and Madness

Impending Love and Madness published May 30, 2018

Print or ebook historic romance novel “Impending Love and Madness” by Laura Freeman at http://goo.gl/0fBnFq and @wildrosepress or shop Amazon at https://goo.gl/B7lKMs

Blurb of Impending Love and MadnessBest_ImpendingLoveandMadness_w12429_750

Cass Beecher hopes Sergeant Zach Ravenswood will fall in love with her on an outing to Ford’s Theater, only to have their world turned upside down with President Lincoln’s assassination. Her romantic plans continue to be thwarted by family, friends, and a mysterious stranger. Can she save the man she loves from the enemies that plot to ruin him?

Zach thought with the war over, he could turn his attention to wooing the lovely Cassandra, but a fortune teller’s dire predictions begin to come true when a fire disfigures him, a nun poisons him, his uncle steals his inheritance, and he’s shot. Is he going mad or is everything not as it appears?

Excerpt:

“Mister Ravenswood is ill and isn’t receiving guests.”

“But we traveled all this way,” Cass said. “Isn’t there going to be a sale?”

“A gale?” The old woman looked at the sky and pointed at a dark cloud. “It looks like rain.”

“We were asking about the horse sale!” Ethan shouted.

“The sale is on Saturday. You should return then.” She pushed the door closed. The clank of a bolt locking the entrance echoed from inside.

“Well, I never.” Cass stared at the wooden barrier, willing it to open. “We’re here to see Zach! If he’s ill, I can help!” Her shouts were unanswered.

“Come on.” Ethan pulled her away and helped her into the buggy.

She turned. A curtain moved. Someone was watching them.

Harry took the reins and glanced at the sky. “She was right about a storm. We better hurry to the village. We can try again tomorrow.”

Ethan relaxed against the back seat. “Any of you buying that fairytale the old witch was telling?”

“No, but what can we do?” Harry asked. “We’ve been thrown out of the castle.”

“Old witch,” Cass repeated Ethan’s description.

Harry slowed the horse. “Are you all right, Miss Cassie? You look pale.”

“Don’t you remember the fortune teller’s prediction? I think Zach is in trouble, and he needs our help.”

Ethan leaned forward. “How do you propose we sneak past the crazy doorkeeper?”

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton 1989

Grafton leaves her garage home when Royce Fowler hires her to prove his son BaileyIMG_1855 didn’t kill his girlfriend, Jean Timberlake 17 years ago. Bailey escaped from prison a year after he confessed but was arrested under his alias. Royce has a sick wife, Oribelle, who runs the family hotel while complaining about her ailments. Their daughter Ann has quit her job as counselor at the high school to care for her ailing parents but they are driving her insane. Grafton goes back and forth from the present situation to the past crime as she introduces characters who were involved with Jean, who was pregnant when she was killed and looking for her biological father.

Bailey maintains his innocence but during his hearing, his best friend Tap shoots up the courtroom with a shotgun loaded with rocksalt, and Bailey escapes, hiding out. Tap is shot by police leaving his young wife with four children and another on the way. Tap and Bailey were into robberies and had $42,000 stashed with Jean, which has disappeared.

Grafton keeps the reader guessing by adding a preacher, spa owner, and principal who had relationships with Jean. She also throws in a crazy spa owner’s wife who beats Kinsey with a tennis racket. Kinsey whacks her in the nose. Grafton is adding humor to her heroine’s personality. Kinsey also is carrying her new gun but doesn’t use it. Grafton gives us the reason, but the reader can see that Grafton wants Kinsey to be in peril and have to use her wits to get out of trouble. The characters had fuller backstories and the emotional assault on characters was as intense as the physical damage. Kinsey grows in her compassion for Henry, her landlord, from the experience.

For writers, Grafton groups her suspects and makes it easier to identify them as she adds clues and complicates the plot.

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton 1989

Grafton leaves her garage home when Royce Fowler hires her to prove his son BaileyIMG_1855 didn’t kill his girlfriend, Jean Timberlake 17 years ago. Bailey escaped from prison a year after he confessed but was arrested under his alias. Royce has a sick wife, Oribelle, who runs the family hotel while complaining about her ailments. Their daughter Ann has quit her job as counselor at the high school to care for her ailing parents but they are driving her insane. Grafton goes back and forth from the present situation to the past crime as she introduces characters who were involved with Jean, who was pregnant when she was killed and looking for her biological father.

Bailey maintains his innocence but during his hearing, his best friend Tap shoots up the courtroom with a shotgun loaded with rocksalt, and Bailey escapes, hiding out. Tap is shot by police leaving his young wife with four children and another on the way. Tap and Bailey were into robberies and had $42,000 stashed with Jean, which has disappeared.

Grafton keeps the reader guessing by adding a preacher, spa owner, and principal who had relationships with Jean. She also throws in a crazy spa owner’s wife who beats Kinsey with a tennis racket. Kinsey whacks her in the nose. Grafton is adding humor to her heroine’s personality. Kinsey also is carrying her new gun but doesn’t use it. Grafton gives us the reason, but the reader can see that Grafton wants Kinsey to be in peril and have to use her wits to get out of trouble. The characters had fuller backstories and the emotional assault on characters was as intense as the physical damage. Kinsey grows in her compassion for Henry, her landlord, from the experience.

‘E’ if for Evidence by Sue Grafton

‘E’ if for Evidence by Sue Grafton 1988

Only Kinsey Millhone would be upset to have $5,000 deposited into her bank account by error.IMG_1853

She’s working on a routine fire investigation before Christmas on the Wood/Warren property. Kinsey is typing on a Smith-Corona – the same typewriter I bought in high school with my hard-earned babysitting money. I feel like a kindred spirit. Grafton has Kinsey explain how she tracks someone down and uncovers data with wits and a pen. She describes the scenery and people with a list of descriptive phrases. Her multiple characters are easier to keep separate in this story but she gives them good and bad traits so it’s hard to tell who to suspect for the crime.

The holidays are depressing for Kinsey because her neighbor, diner owner and favorite cop are all out of town. Kinsey goes to the burnt warehouse and does the paperwork. The family consists of Linden, who died two years ago, Ashley, Lance, Olive, Ebony and Bass, the black sheep. Olive is married to Terry Kohler, now VP of the company. She turns in her work only to find out after Christmas that the folder has been altered and she looks like she’s a co-conspirator in the arson and fraud along with Lance, the owner of the company. Kinsey is her own client as she interrogates the family, employees and a widow of a man who looked like he committed suicide. The clues are subtle but begin to add up. Greed seems to be the motive and there are plenty of suspects. Kinsey is visited by her second ex-husband Daniel, and Grafton gives us more personal background on Kinsey. Daniel is surfer good looking with bad addiction habits. She discovers his reason for leaving her eight years ago after a year of marriage. I won’t tell.

Thank goodness Grafton wrote this in 1988. She did thorough research on bombs down to the size of the box and how it would kill or burn anyone close by. Today, if she did the same research, she’d have the FBI knocking on her door. Mystery writers are always looking out their window for that black SUV parked on the street.

‘D’ is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton

‘D’ is for Deadbeat  by Sue Grafton 1987

Grafton likes to start the story after the events with a look back through Kinsey’s IMG_1851eyes. If anyone defines deadbeat it is John Daggett who wants her to find a 15-year-old boy named Tony and give him a check for $25,000. The check he pays Kinsey with bounces though, and before she can confront him, he turns up dead in an “accidental” drowning. Kinsey discovers Daggett is a drunk and killed five people in a car crash.

The relatives are all suspects, and she interviews each one, whittling away as the clues point toward a blond in a green skirt and high heels. Unfortunately, there are plenty of blonds who match the description of the woman last seen with Daggett.

The story doesn’t preach against drunk driving, but each family is tormented by Daggett’s alcoholism and survivorship guilt haunts more than one of the characters. This book could be analyzed and torn apart to create several new mystery novels.

Kinsey reveals a little more about losing her parents in a car crash and being raised by an aunt, and she identifies with Tony, whose family was killed in the car crash and is being raised by his aunt. She enjoys being single and hooks up with Jonah, the cop struggling with his wife’s concept of an open marriage. Grafton brings back Mike from ‘B’ for a small role as well.

Kinsey makes a big mistake leaving important items in her car, including her gun, and someone breaks the window and steals it. The gun comes back to haunt her.

A subplot of stealing money from Daggett seems weak compared to the drama of the family dealing with the loss of loved ones in a senseless car crash. I would have liked more time spent with Tony to help explain his character more. No reason was given for Daggett giving the money to Tony either unless I missed it. There were other victims he didn’t compensate so why Tony? Also even though there is a psychiatrist in the list of characters, Kinsey never talks to him. It seemed odd since she is normally so thorough.

 

‘C’ is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

‘C’ is for Corpse by Sue Grafton 1986

Bobby Callahan asks private investigator Kinsey Millhone to IMG_1850look 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.