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 ???
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.
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!
As this series progresses I find the books are becoming more padded. That is the main reason why I am not giving this book more stars. There are three points of view from Kinsey Millhone the PI to a society lady with an unfaithful husband - boringly, just with his secretary, not the pool boy - and an Italian-American mobster who manages wholesale shoplifting. Having got the gist of the two side characters we tend to skip over their lengthy chapters. Oh, I forgot to mention the most boring one, a young man who stupidly borrows money to gamble at Vegas - hoping to recoup what he has already lost - and falls foul of said mobster who has lent him the money. That could have been encapsulated in a couple of paragraphs, and while two years elapse before the rest of the story, the reason for his inclusion is not made clear until near the end of the book.
Shoplifting is the lead-in for Kinsey's involvement as she spots a pair of women stuffing goods into their handbags in a department store and sets the detectives on one; she nearly gets run over by the other as she tries to head her off. The captured shoplifter is wearing what's called booster gear - a lining with pockets under her clothes to pack in more goods. Hardly an innocent then, and she turns out to have five previous grand theft convictions. Her somewhat too trusting fiancé doesn't want to hear bad of her, especially after she is found to have jumped - or been thrown - off a bridge. Kinsey feels guilty and accepts the fiancé's commission to find out the whole story.
Kinsey is also involved with a petty burglar called Pinky, a sort-of friend, a pesky female journalist, alternately friend and foe, and a crooked cop, not a friend at all. It's giving nothing away to say that Kinsey survives when others don't, and as in some other books of this series she is handed a fat wedge of money at the end.
I find it continually less credible that Kinsey badly cuts her own hair and wears the same plain outfits and one dress, when she is accumulating money like this. I can only suppose that at the end of this series set in the 1980s, she will turn out to have invested in Apple or Microsoft (it is California, and we have seen no Silicon Valley characters) and she will retire a millionaire at the end of book Z. Let's hope her life turns out that well.
on 18 August 2012
Having known Kinsey Millhone now longer than most of my friends, it's always such a pleasure to get a new offering in the alphabet series from Sue Grafton. I don't think I have ever been disappointed in any of the stories, although some have been more compelling than others. This one is one of the most compelling. With brilliant pacing (although during the first hundred pages I did feel we were getting a little too much on Kinsey's movements in terms of minute detail, but no matter, this soon eased off) the usual cast of interesting and diverse characters, and Kinsey herself, I was extremely sorry to come to the end and close the book.
Dante is one of her more interesting villians in that we are given more direct access into his world via the intermittent chapters that do not focus on Kinsey herself, something that I thought added further depth to the story. He eventually falls into the category of men who are essentially bad, living by their own code of honour that would not necessarilly match that of acceptable standards, but that we cannot help but grudgingly like or admire. His own story is well-explored, with a killer twist at the end that seemed to sign the deal in terms of his final actions.
Kinsey herself, though other reviewers have though that she seemed inconsistent with earlier versions, didn't feel remotely out of key. She's still got the multi-purpose black dress, still not afraid to challenge, still her tenacious self. I don't see her at all as a moralising wallflower - although we did get to know quite a bit about the ways and means and effects of shoplifting rings and her disgust with it - this is something that often gets ignored as it's not a particularly glamourous crime and is not seen as one that affects us directly.
My only regret is that we didn't get much of Henry and were left with the oddity that is William, although in many respects William's character flaws are the most interesting.
Loved it - all of it. Grafton has packed a lot in here and tied up so many threads neatly at the end. Even the dreadful Diana had her uses. It's going to feel like a long wait until the next one.
on 2 February 2012
I'm a huge Sue Grafton/Kinsey fan. I don't know whether it's just me but other reviewers just don't seem to appreciate the different settings that Sue continues to place her heroine in. But this one was not just a change of setting but also a change of style. Sue Grafton manages it superbly- all the things the writing schools tell you not to do- switching to first person for several people - yet she does it with consummate skill resulting in a novel which is definitely Kinsey but no longer the introverted Kinsey at the centre but more a dominant player in a wider stage. Great stuff Sue Grafton- very readable - but maybe once is enough.
on 10 March 2012
this is a really excellent read. there are quite a few characters to follow but once you know who thery are the book will just flow. dont ever go to bed thinking you will just read one chapter because that will never happen. this is a real page turner and you will want to read the whole book in one sitting. sue grafton is a very good writer who goes into glorious detail, giving you a wonderful; description of the characters and surroundings
on 28 December 2012
I've read all of Sue Grafton's ABC Kinsey stories and I really like them. Kinsey Millhone is one of the most believable heroines: she's not a cardboard character to me. I feel that I might meet her if I went to California in 1980!
V for Vengeance is written from a different perspective in that many of the chapters revolve around what are seemingly disparate characters and a lot of the intrigue for the reader is working out how Grafton is going to weave them together. Interspersed between the chapters featuring the main protagonists are the traditional first person chapters as written by Kinsey: then,for the first time, in one chapter we also see Kinsey from another character's point of view as she is referred to in the third person. I like the fact that Sue Grafton sticks to the 1980s settings so there no hi-tech gadgetry and mobile phones.
Hopefully Sue Grafton will carry on writing and reach Z!