Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sue Grafton. L is for Lawless, M is for Malice, N is for Noose, O is for Outlaw

     Sue Grafton. L is for Lawless The title alludes to a psychopath who betrayed his fellow robbers many years ago, killed one of them, and has been waiting to get the loot ever since. There isn’t any loot worth mentioning, but by the time Kinsey has discovered this it’s too late. She also doesn’t get paid, as the family that wanted her to prove their father’s military service (so they would get death benefits) welshes when it turns out he was using stories of war service as a cover. One of the weaker tales in the series, with a surprisingly creaky plot. Even the psycho seems overdone. ** (2010)

    M is for Malice Kinsey finds a long lost black sheep, reformed of course, whose murder does little to help his dysfunctional family mend its rifts. The murderer is the last surviving relative of a girl betrayed by this family, but she has it all wrong: the lost sheep even then had a fine sense of honour. The story ends, uncharacteristically, with the perp suiciding by running into traffic. Grafton is back in top form in this novel, with Kinsey revealing a few more bits about her past, the social satire sharp as ever, and vexing questions of justice, loyalty, betrayal and love left unresolved, as they are in real life. *** (2010)

     N is for Noose (1999) The noose figures in two murders that a dead small town cop was investigating. His widow wants Kinsey to find out why he was morose and tense in his final weeks, before a heart attack killed him. The perp attacks Kinsey, and nearly kills her in a final confrontation (a staple motif in Grafton’s books), she suffers the slings and arrows of small-town suspicion, and is glad to return to her medium-sized city. The mood and ambience of a late spring with gloomy weather and glooming mountains overlooking the town, the characters as narrow and closed in as the valley in which their town stands, the wary respect of the cops for Kinsey, are better done than usual. The plot is somewhat Patricia Cornwellish, which is not a compliment. **½ (2010)

     O is for Outlaw (1999) The outlaw is Kinsey’s ex-husband Mickey McGruder, whom she hasn’t seen for fourteen years. She walked when he asked her to provide an alibi for the death of Benny Quintero. Now he’s been shot, and two detectives from L.A. visit her because Mickey apparently made a 30-minute phone call to her a few days earlier. A storage-scavenger offers her a box of stuff he found in McGruder’s storage locker, whose contents were auctioned because he hadn’t paid the rent. In the box Kinsey finds a letter that arrived the day after she walked, which exculpates Mickey. So naturally Kinsey has to discover what really happened, who tried to kill her ex, and who killed Benny. She’s of course nearly killed herself before she unmasks the killer, but this time the plot is less important than the characters. Well done, as usual. **½ (2010)

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