Tuesday, September 13, 2016

L is for Lawless (Grafton)

L is for Lawless, Sue Grafton, 1995

This is the 12th book in the series, in case you're counting letters of the alphabet on your fingers. After being a little disappointed by the ending of the K is for Killer, I went straight into the next book. I knew from the start, it wasn't going to be a good time for Kinsey, but at least this time, that fact is telegraphed in the opening comments before the story begins.

For the second time in four novels, Kinsey is involved in a wedding party. (You can't say always a bridesmaid, never a bride, because she'll bring up her two past marriages.) And as with the last time, she gets caught up in events that take her away despite the upcoming event. The last time, it was against her will and she wasn't free to go.l This time, she's following a duffel bag of stolen goods and she can't let her only lead vanish.

And as Kinsey points out at the start, for everything she's going through, she's not even getting paid.

The story begins with landlord Henry Pitts asking Kinsey to help out the family of a deceased neighbor down the street. The family has been trying to get death benefits paid for the grandfather, who had served in World War II. The only problem is that the military keeps saying that they've never heard of him. She volunteers to help look for information in his records that might provide some missing key information that would identify to prove to military service, so they can claim the few hundred dollars they believe he's entitled to.

While searching through old military books, she meets Ray Rawson, an old acquaintance of the deceased Johnny Lee from back East. Ray is looking to move to California and wants to rent the apartment. It doesn't told long to figure out that both Johnny and Ray are full of secrets, the first of which being that Johnny was never in the military -- that's just the story that was told to cover up his two-year absence.

After the apartment is later ransacked, Kinsey follows the thief all the way to the airport, where he gives a duffel bag to a woman who is boarding a plane for Florida. Kinsey buys a ticket and follows, with only what personal items she has in her bag, and a credit card that's nearly maxed out after the airfare. A wrench gets puts in the plans when the woman gets off the plane in Texas.

The mysteries unfold as we find out where Johnny had been, how Ray knows him and the connection to Gilbert Hays, who is both ruthless and persistent.

A satisfying read, and while the ending wasn't given away in the intro, you know it's not going to be the best outcome for Kinsey. On the other hand, it's probably the only one that would make sense, as it extricates her from some events of dubious legality.

As for the continuing elements: obviously there's the wedding between Rosy and Henry's brother, and his whole family is present for it. Also, there's some movement on Kinsey's newfound relatives.

This was an ebook loan from the libary.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

K is for Killer (Grafton)

K is for Killer, Sue Grafton, 1994

This is probably the fastest I've read any book in the series to date, having extra time on my hand. (I finished a few days ago, but I had connectivity problems.) It's also the first one where I was disappointed in the ending. I won't give it away because there are a few people besides me reading this blog.

One thing I can say for the series is that they don't all end the same way. There isn't a shoot-out in every book. The guilty party doesn't end up always end up dead (although truth be told, I do prefer mysteries where the guilty party is named and caught, and not left flying in the wind).

Let me back up a bit. This novel takes places less than a year after the events of J is for Judgment. Kinsey takes on a cold case after she gets a visit in her office from a woman who a support group that meets in the same building after the woman spotted Kinsey's name on the building's directory.

Janice Kepler's daughter, Lorna, was found dead ten months earlier in an isolated cabin located some distance behind the main house on the owners' property. Her body was discovered a couple weeks after her death, and the state of the corpse made determining cause of death impossible. They couldn't even tell if it was a murder or an accident.

What makes the mother seek answers now is that she suddenly received a video in the mail, a professionally-made porno film, in which Lorna was the star. Why did someone send it to her now after all this time? And did it have something to do with her death?

Kinsey isn't sure that there is anything that she can do after all this time, but she agrees to look into the investigation (which is technically still open), going so far as traveling to San Francisco to talk to the people who made the movie. Likewise, finding out that Lorna was a prostitute, Kinsey finds and befriends another lady of the evening who knew the dead woman.

And to top it off, Lorna worked part-time at the water treatment plant, which was a cover for all her other activities. She had to make some honest money somewhere -- although she made sure to pay the IRS taxes on everything!

There's plenty to follow in the story, but it takes a sideways turn when a mysterious, shadowy figure is introduced who you know will play some part in the ending either for good or for ill. The character gets mentioned so little in the rest of the novel that it could have been excised entirely.

But that brings me back to the ending, where Chekov's Mysterious Figure must return. That in itself might not be so bad, but how he comes back bothered me.

I don't think Grafton wrote herself into a corner and chose to add this extra character to handle things. Other resolutions were possible, even some which wouldn't copy what she's done before. Likewise, I can't say that it was a lazy ending. After all, this is the eleventh book in the series and she plans to write fifteen more. I just not happy where the characters went.

On the continuing saga parts of the story, Rosie and William (Henry's brother) move things along, but Kinsey's newfound family don't make any appearances.

This was a library e-book loan, which I finished in just a few days. Record time for me.

I still enjoyed the book, even if I questioned its resolution. Hoping for better next time.

Next up, installment 12. L. I've already started it.