Main characters: Kinsey Millhone
Time: about 1986 I’d say
Summary: Two weeks have passed since the previous book and Kinsey is on to a new case: a woman has hired her to locate her sister, Elaine Boldt. Known to be spending part of the year in Florida and the rest of it in Boca Raton, Elaine is not to be found in either of the places. One of the first thing Kinsey discovers is a curious coincidence: there has been a murder and arson case at the house next door to Elaine’s flat in Boca (a burglary attempt, said the police) a few days before Elaine has been seen last (boarding a flight to Miami).
One of the things I like the most about Kinsey is how normal she is: she has doubts, she is afraid, she has pet peeves like the rest of us. She’s also persistent and smart, two must-have qualities when talking of PI work. I have also been amused by Julia, Elaine’s elderly Miami neighbor. She is the “tough nut” type, endearingly so, despite her being over 80s and her health not being what it once was. Elaine herself is being as a very likable person, and I did like her, despite her scarcely being present in the book. On the opposite side I have found the Pat Usher person, whom I very much disliked, finding the way she ruined every place she was in really really REALLY annoying (I am not a cleanliness freak but I am very sensitive when it comes to people’s homes :D ).
In this book Kinsey gathers a bit more depth (character-wise) by unveiling some tidbits about her past: she’s been a policewoman for a while, but wasn’t very good at taking orders so she quit. She’s been first taught to use a weapon by the aunt who raised her and who saw she liked the smell of gunpowder. The cramped home she loves so much used to be a one car garage (wow, that must be really cramped) and so on. Making it all the more easier for the reader to perceive Kinsey as “real”, to care for her and root for her.
The reason why I’m hooked with the alphabet series is best explained in this quote:
Most of my investigations proceed just like this. Endless notes, endless sources checked and rechecked, pursuing leads that sometimes go no place. Usually, I start in the same place, plodding along methodically, never knowing at first what might be significant. It’s all detail; facts accumulated painstakingly.
Kinsey’s work has nothing of the glamour and excitement we see in the movies: it feels real and authentic. She’s taking small pieces of information and tries to make them fit so as to form one big picture — a thing that is bound to appeal to a jigsaw puzzle addict like me :)
What I liked most: The eye for detail the author gave Kinsey. Most of the times, while following her leads, Kinsey finds herself in many new places (mostly people’s homes). I have loved the way she takes everything in, from the pattern on mugs to the particular shape of a random vase. It is of course very normal for a PI to think like that, to act like that, but I couldn’t help thinking every now and then that, had I been the writer, I wouldn’t probably have thought to add in all those little “touches”. Which is probably why Mrs. Grafton is a writer and I am not: it is those very little things that make people particular, that give them life, that differentiate them from simple cardboard cutouts. :)
What I liked least: Nothing (Yay!).
(Actually, I am a wee bit bothered about why Lily Howe had to be told everything in the end, as “who did it” had no need to disclose the deed to her (hint: plastic surgery!!), but oh well, it could have happened as malefactors do seem to have a tendency to brag :P )
Recommend it? Yes, it kept me on the edge of my seat as I ended up being very curious about whatever might have happened to Elaine. Plus I didn’t quite guess the ending, which is always a plus when mystery books are involved. :)
This book is a sequel to:
A Is For Alibi
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