Sue Grafton died in December of last year. I was familiar with her books from the gimmicky titles but I had never picked one up. I figured if the titles were dorky then the story would be too. After reading some of the tributes to Grafton and Kinsey Millhone, her protagonist, and decided that this would be a great book to kick off CBR10 with.
Grafton’s protagonist is a private investigator in California who is, of course, a former police officer. She is cute, blonde and competent. She has some baggage and a drinking problem but is doing alright. She is working steadily but not earning a ton when she is hired by a woman who has just been released from prison after serving time for the murder of her husband. Nikki Fife served eight years for the murder of her husband and she wants to know who the real killer is. The bodies start piling up and everyone is lying to everyone else.
One of the reasons that I liked this book is that the survivors are affected by the deaths of loved ones. Characters struggle with reconciling the good and bad aspects of the dead husband. Children struggle to move on after the violent death of a somewhat deadbeat dad and everyone is just trying to make it through the world with a little bit of composure.
This is a cozy mystery. The plot moves along quickly and while some of the plot twists force people into decisions or behaviors that are unrealistic, overall the writing is solid. All the plot threads are wrapped up neatly at the end and the detective is ready for her next adventure.
One gripe I do have, however is the fat shaming that Grafton heaps upon one of the side characters. She binge eats diet food and is described as grotesque while Kinsey is always jogging or wiggling into tiny jeans. The book was written in the eighties and reflects acceptable behavior at the time. Still, Grafton is sympathetic to the foibles of the other characters so her treatment of a lonely hotel desk clerk strikes a sour note.