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4 February 2014

Hardcover, Pan McMillan, 2013,

At the present rate of production which has slowed considerably from the original books in this series, I estimate that the author will be well into her 80s when the final Z volume is published. I can only hope, in view of the uncertainty of life, that she has actually written X/Y/Z in first draft already so as not to disappoint loyal readers just in case. This one was a Christmas gift and came with a note that it the giver’s opinion it was one of the best. It certainly is well up to scratch, 23rd in the series and no drop-off in quality is a heck of a record and why I have continued to collect and hold onto this series which I reread regularly.

This series entry has a very good intertwining of two major cases that at first seem to have nothing to do with each other. A sleazy small-time private detective Kinsey knew very slightly years ago is found murdered, apparently the victim of an over-enthusiastic mugger. Six weeks later a homeless man is found dead on the beach in his sleeping bag, apparently from natural causes. Yeah right! Us readers know from experience that it won’t have been either a genuine mugger or natural causes and we’d be correct. Kinsey becomes involved when an irked ex-lover turns up asking why she recommended him to the sleazy detective. Dietz did three thousand dollars worth of work for Pete Wolinsky and now finds that he isn’t being paid, so why did Kinsey recommend him to the man, what does she know about him, where can he be found, and…

Then there’s the homeless man who when Kinsey is dragged into looking at him is discovered to be a distant relative, and far more startling that he’s left her a very substantial estate over an ex-wife and his three children. Then there are his homeless friends who conspire to haul her into raiding the camp of a couple of dangerous men, a medical examiner who discovers that no, it wasn’t natural causes, Dietz, the ex-lover who isn’t always ex, and her landlord Henry, who has cat trouble, brother trouble, and has accidentally become infested by one of Kinsey’s distant relatives – daughter of the dead man.

That’s the great thing about Sue Grafton. She makes you nod thoughtfully, laugh quietly, and occasionally snort disbelievingly. She’s the only mystery writer I know who can get away with lyrical and quite long descriptions of a sunrise or scenery and make you like it. Her books are readable, despite this one being as I judge around 190,000-200,000 words, there’s no sag anywhere. That’s the advantage of a double plot, in single plot mysteries where they run to this length I find that there are stretches of the book that I skim rather than read. And most likely I’ll mark that book/series as a good read-once, but not a keeper. With Sue Grafton’s books I started reading them with A is for Alibi, have never stopped, and have every book. This new entry is excellent – and recommended.

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