I wrote about Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery, A is for Alibi, but I kind of glossed over B. Maybe for my own record I might just expand a bit on B but then properly tell you about C is for Corpse. After a while all the details of the mysteries go a little fuzzy, and I like to have some kind of notation at least of what I read. Mostly, though, I like learning a bit more about Kinsey with each new book. Grafton seems to expand just a little about her characters and the sense of place or season with each new book and it is fun to see those details all roll out.
I think B is for Burglar is my favorite book, mystery-wise, so far. I do like how Grafton throws in some nice twists and solutions that you don't quite see coming. And I like how methodical Kinsey is in her detecting work. I think these early novels were written somewhere in the middle 1980s so technology is pretty limited. No cell phones, no ipads, no fancy cameras. Kinsey is lucky if she can ask one of the detectives (mostly Jonah so far who I think we are going to see more of . . .) in the police department to run searches on their very limited databases. So it is literally pounding the pavement and asking questions, lots of questions, and then noting down information on her index cards and typing up the clues on her portable Smith-Corona.
So B starts out pretty straightforwardly with a job trying to get a signature on a document concerning an inheritance. Beverly Danziger is annoyed with her sister Elaine Boldt who seems to have gone missing. Elaine likes to spend part of the year in Florida but has been incommunicado for some time and for Beverly and the others listed on the will, a signature is needed before any money is released. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, Elaine ends up being far more elusive than anyone expected. Kinsey flies to Florida to check on Elaine but finds a strange woman staying in her apartment claiming Elaine allowed her to sublet the apartment while she goes off traveling. But Elaine is nowhere to be found. And when a mysterious fire and a body come into play, it all becomes more complicated than Kinsey expected. What I like so much about this book are the feisty older women who are Elaine's neighbors both in Santa Teresa and Florida. When I say both women are "characters" in their own right, you will probably get the picture. She cracks the case with aplomb but not without managing to get shot in the arm and banged up in the process.
It is during her recovery and recuperation from the Elaine Boldt case that she gets involved with Bobby Callahan in C is for Corpse. This is a very adept title as corpses kind of abound. And they play quite important roles in the story, too. Kinsey is working out in a local gym as part of her rehab when she meets Bobby. He is also in recovery from a car accident from which a good friend did not survive. Bobby is sure the accident was not an accident at all and that he was not meant to walk away from it. He did, but not without a serious brain injury which has left him with mobility problems and worse with a spotty memory. He tells Kinsey about a small red phone book which is worrying him as he cannot find it. He asks Kinsey to investigate and try to find who sent him skidding off the road.
Unfortunately Kinsey does not get far in her searching before Bobby has a seizure while driving and a second crash finishes him off. Kinsey, being Kinsey, decides as Bobby has paid her retainer fee, dead or not, he is still her client. So she pushes on with her investigation. The ending is very suspenseful and more than a little freaky since it takes place in a hospital morgue, a building off on its own and at night when there are not others around. Unless you count the dead bodies. And the killer, of course.
Sue Grafton always gets down to business right away in her books. They are very much of the hardboiled variety and Kinsey is as matter-of-fact as they come. But with each book I feel like I learn just a little more about her and she becomes just a bit more rounded and interesting. She has felt flesh and blood since the first book, but now she feels even more human and flawed, yet I would still trust her to be able to take care of business. Now there are more bits about Kinsey in the books and I feel like I am getting to know her more personally.
I knew she had been raised by an unmarried aunt, but the circumstances surrounding her parents were not clear. When she was only five her family was on a Sunday outing when a boulder smashed through their windshield. Both parents were killed and Kinsey was crushed in the backseat and it took hours for her to be rescued. I am curious about her childhood which she alludes to in this story. Her aunt sounds quite social and she would take Kinsey on her social calls and tell her to amuse herself, which Kinsey apparently did by snooping around. No wonder she is so good at her job now.
She is still living in a converted garage, her landlord Henry, although in his 80s is still a very handsome and 'crushable' man. There is a side story in this book about Henry and a new lady-friend he has acquired. A woman of questionable intentions that Kinsey has doubts about and for good reason as the story develops. Kinsey likes to have a glass of wine now and then. She often pulls out a bottle from her fridge and sits down to work. And she still hangs out at the local dive, Rosie's. Rosie is in her 60s, of Hunagarian extraction. A most excellent cook but bossy and prone to pouting. She does not warm up easily to strangers. Kinsey finds her (as do we the readers) completely fascinating.
Oh, most interesting. Finally a little hint at Kinsey's previous relationships. It sounds like she was once dumped and once did the dumping. She was twice married and divorced and not easily convinced now to get into a new relationship. It's not that she won't under the right circumstances, but she is, I'll say it again, no pushover. One of her husbands happens to be a jazz pianist named Daniel Wade. He is now in NYC. Their marriage was brief but Kinsey recalls it with some fondness and she is not entirely sure if he came back into her life that she would turn him down. Alas, his musician's ways, despite his talent, just are not conducive to a happy relationship.
And now I am midway through D is for Deadbeat. It is a little uncanny how often someone will hire Kinsey and then end up being killed or have an accident. There is some of that going on now, too. It is Fall in Santa Teresa, too, and boy is it raining there. Kinsey took a day off (too wet to investigate) to snuggle under a blanket with her book and a glass of wine! I was beginning to worry her only hobbies were running three miles a day and murder investigations! I'll be thrilled if I can finish D this weekend but in any case I hope to start E sometime next week. And as there might be a visit to this month's library sale, I might see if I can find any more used copies to have on hand. I think I have F waiting in the wings, but as these are quick indulgences it would be good to have a few more on hand!