“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.