Ordinarily, I wouldn't have bothered to post a review of a book that has already received so many good reviews, but I was so impressed by Sue Grafton's writing in "V is for Vengeance" that I just had to put my two cents in!
I've read all of Grafton's alphabet books since "A is for Alibi". Some I've liked better than others, but I've always appreciated her tight writing style. Both characters and plots tended to be well-thought out, but for a while there she was mixing Kinsey's cases with her private life in such a way that felt "tentative". She'd write about Kinsey's family-of-birth and with each book go a little further in introducing an aunt or a cousin or a grandmother to the plot as she put Kinsey through the agonising mental work of "Do I want to know these people from my past or don't I"? And, frankly, Grafton was putting her readers through the same agony. I had reached the point a few books ago that I really didn't care one way or the other. Grafton seems to have dispensed with these hangers-on and now concentrates on the Henry and his siblings and the crew at the Hungarian restaurant. Much better.
This new book is the best in the series so far. Grafton goes beyond Kinsey's cases - generally written in the first-person - and includes two other plot lines written in the third-person. It's not a common plot devise but Grafton has the writerly chops to carry it off. All her characters in this novel are fully drawn in a nuanced way that makes them seem real to the reader - or at least to THIS reader. Sometimes I felt I was reading a much more "literary" novel than the average series novel. And to the reviewers who complain about Grafton setting her books in the late 1980's rather than bringing them up to date? Well, this novel is Sue Grafton's to plot and write.
I would almost say that "V is for Vengeance" is a very mature novel. Grafton seems to have reached a new, high level with her writing. It's really good.
on 18 February 2012
It's a long wait for Sue Grafton's next alphabet books to be published, but the wait for V for Vengeance has been well worth it. Her main character, Kinsey, is back on form with a new assignment but with various twists and turns throughout. Sue Grafton also doesn't disappoint with the usual interplay of the usual characters which play a large part of her life. V for Vengeance hooked me from the beginning and kept this up until the very last page. I can't wait for W for ???
I have faithfully read all of Sue Grafton's "alphabet" series and have usually enjoyed them; but it is only in the past few outings that I've come to look forward to each new letter avidly. The author is now well into her stride with her characters and setting, and rather than sticking to the formula established in the first several titles, she is exploring and creating new situations in her fictional town of Santa Teresa (based on Santa Barbara) and its environs. Perhaps more than usual, I felt in V for Vengeance that the author is feeling somewhat constrained by her title style; although vengeance does indeed feature here, it is by no means the only motivation for the many dark deeds described in the pages.
Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator in her late 30s. While in an upmarket department store she sees a woman blatantly shoplifting and reports her to the sales assistant and, via her, the security officers. Although the thief is apprehended, her accomplice escapes - injuring Kinsey in the process. Later, Kinsey reads that the shoplifter, awaiting trial, has apparently committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. Skipping a few plot points, she is hired by Marvin, the dead woman's fiancé, to look into her death as he is convinced it was no accident. Kinsey makes some progress, discovering that the dead woman was involved in much more than the occasional piece of casual thievery, but runs out of leads.
What raises this book above the level of a straightforward crime novel is its two vivid subplots. One of these involves a crooked businessman called Dante, who has inherited his father's enterprises but who has little enthusiasm for some of the family's more lethal methods of settling their affairs. Dante has been trapped in this life since boyhood; the portrait of him is involving and moving. The other main subplot concerns Nora, a rich Californian wife who is married to Channing, a lawyer to movie stars and the like. It gradually becomes clear how Nora and Channing have drifted apart over the years, and that Nora, like Dante a gentle soul at heart, is trapped in the life she's created for herself.
For the first 250 or so pages, the book is completely absorbing as the three stories progress and the reader can try to outguess the author as to how or if they will turn out to be connected. At this point, there is a bit of a lull, as Kinsey becomes involved in helping an old, lowlife friend "Pinky" who is on the run in a matter concerning some photographs. Perhaps improbably, Pinky is also involved with the people Kinsey is investigating in the shoplifter-suicide case and provides some pieces of the puzzle that Kinsey is trying to solve. At about the same point in the book, a piece of information is revealed to the reader that changes the dynamics between Nora and Dante - a development that I felt was a bit of a cheat as it concerns a matter that Nora, whose part of the narrative is told to the reader from her point of view, would certainly have been thinking about during her daily life but which is not mentioned.
At the end, the book delivers a satisfying resolution to the various plots, as the stories concerning Kinsey, Pinky, Marvin, Dante and Nora, as well as sundry well-observed minor characters, all converge. I was pleased that Kinsey's neighbour Henry and his brother William did not feature too much here, as I think that they, and Kinsey's regular descriptions of her unique home, can overburden and slow down the novels too much. I also wish Kinsey would find a different place to eat dinner occasionally. Overall, although I did find that there were rather too many coincidences for my liking, V is for Vengeance is a strong addition to the series and will leave readers eagerly awaiting W is for......
on 19 January 2012
I have read all of the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series from A onwards, I highly recommend anyone read them all from the beginning, I adore Kinsey, I like to think I'm her in a different life! Kinsey is a private detective who lives next door to Henry her landlord who is 80something, he makes an abbreviated appearance in the book and I missed him as much as Kinsey did. She generally does boring PI work but every so often gets entangled in a bigger mess, the bigger mess here involves loan sharks and organised crime and like the last book U is not only told from Kinseys viewpoint this time 2 others Dante and Nora. For me this was the biggest failing so far although an excellent read and I charged through it, I really missed Kinsey, I want to read about Kinsey after all I have invested in 20 odd books about her so far. In the end its a very well written intertwining story that is clever and works, if you had not previously read any of the alphabet series you probably wouldn't notice her abscence, but I think as a Kinsey fan you think differently. Sue Grafton is in her 70s and to be creating these works is an amazing achievement, can't wait for W!
on 10 February 2012
I'm not going to go on and on about this novel. If you've read Sue Grafton's series, you already know it's wonderful - and by that I mean, a difficult-to-produce combination of mystery and literary thinkpiece. NOT of the navel-gazing variety, but of the scrabbly-underside-of-humankind-revealed variety.
Grafton's character studies, which are such an integral part of her writing, are spot on.
Example in V is for Vengeance: in my hardback edition, pages 133 and 134 and their immediate surroundings, there's a description of one of the houses in a marriage that stands in and for the marriage itself. This is done, not in an overt way, but in a way that unfolds and makes you think about all marital relationships. About yours as reader as well, perhaps.
I love Kinsey, and I'm pleased with this addition to her story. She's not as central to this plot as most of the earlier novels, but her stamp is on the story, and it's a damned fine one.
on 7 December 2014
Dear oh dear. My jaw hit the floor at the customary sign-off by Kinsey in this book because the author spelt her surname wrong !! Yep, 22 books in and this happened. Easily knocked it a star down for me and if this had been letter A in the series I'd have finished with it. I'm still reeling. I find it unforgivable, actually.
Once again there are loads of differing editions/publishers/covers and you're telling me NOT ONE spotted that oversight ???? Shocking.....And all of a sudden the stories are subtitled The Fethering Mysteries-since when ? And what's THAT in reference to ??
Once again it's full of hyphen and spacing errors throughout as well which I've complained about since I started reading the series in digital format. Each one on the Kindle has been the same. Chan-ning/she'dbeback/Hollo-way/sherealized/Phil-lip's/Pin-ky's...It's sloppy and I'd have expected better considering I've now paid for 22 of these stories, too. There were of course apostrophe mistakes as well. Plus mention of an alcohol-detecting flashlight which I'd never heard of so Googled. But they don't seem to have been in existence in the 80s-another oversight.
This has taken me a week to plough through...I got bogged down with it at the beginning when we had all this superfluous card-playing "stuff" to wade through. It really didn't warrant as much detail as it had and I could feel my interest waning. Made it hard to pick it up again.
I still like Kinsey a great deal but I'm none too impressed with Sue Grafton right now.
on 13 February 2012
I'm quite surprised at the negative reviews for this book. I've read them all and have to say that I think this is the best SG has written. It's true that we get less "Kinsey time", but given that all of the other 20 odd books have immersed us pretty deeply in her life it doesn't feel like we're missing anything. I did like the two other characters whose POV we get for half the book, and I loved the fact that for the first time ever we get to (very, very briefly) see Kinsey through someone else's eyes (and yes, apparently it DOES look like she cuts her hair herself, so she's not just being modest when she says it's a mess!)I loved this and finished it virtually in one sitting. Now, I can't wait for W - can't imagine what it'll stand for.
on 3 February 2013
HAve sat down with this new exciting Kinsey Millhone new exciting private eye detective story
within two pages i am gripped - its all the best of her - this story has me enwrapped already 0 - the sense of story telling, the sense of drama occasion and rigorous reasearch to desbcribe perfectly eloquently and with sheer delight is unique and compeltes a wonderful piece of American literature - this writer is a genius with the art of story telling - great Americam novelist story - construction is superb - doyens of American literature read these stories and be astounded - cant praise highly enough