"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life." -- 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NKJV)
The book begins with an intriguing back story of a young Princeton graduate who considers himself to be a great poker player. Next, in the book's present Kinsey finds herself clothes shopping (a most uncommon event in this series!) and observes a shoplifter. Her instincts kick in and she alerts a clerk she knows who calls security. From this simple act, the book's conflicts and revelations are launched. After you finish the book, I'm sure you'll be looking around you during future shopping trips in much different ways than you do now. It's a plot-dependent book so I won't say more about what happens. Let me shift instead to an overview of what the book addresses.
Have you ever made a mistake that threatened you with permanently upsetting everything you cared about in life . . . including staying alive? That's the powerful undercurrent theme of V is for Vengeance. Masterful mystery novelist Sue Grafton beautifully paints portraits of characters in just such circumstances . . . drawn into a whirlpool of evil that it's hard to find any light in it. In some cases, the portraits are revealed through narration, in other cases through dialogue, in some instances by what others say about them, and also by examining the remains of their lives after they are gone.
While hearing about such a book might seem to promise only depressed emotions for readers, Ms. Grafton brilliantly rises to display the human instinct to fight back, to look for a solution where there appears to be none, and to do the right thing. As a result, the book is ultimately life affirming in providing an implied promise of potential redemption for those who look beyond the worst potential consequences of their circumstances. I was very impressed.
Naturally, if you don't like dark stories, you probably won't like this book as much as I did . . . but I'm sure you'll admire the craftsmanship.
I was particularly impressed by the ways that little clues were left in the empty spaces of the pages as to the true nature of the characters. As a result, there was plenty of detecting to do before Kinsey Millhone made her first investigative move. To me, it made the complex character development a lot more interesting than it otherwise would have been.
To be sure the picture was dark enough, Ms. Grafton even sent Henry out of town. Characters whose quirks might otherwise have brought a smile to a reader's face were put into situations that made the quirks feel threatening to life and limb.
As a fan of character development, I don't recall a mystery novel that employed nearly as many different storytelling methods to paint the various portraits. I'm sure mystery novelist wannabes will be studying this book for years to come.
Ultimately, the book may lead you to ask some very interesting questions:
What should a life's purpose be? What's the right thing to do when danger appears? How can someone redeem a loss that seems irredeemable? What is true hope?
Be sure to chew on all that food for thought.
Brava, Ms. Grafton!
You can be sure that the arrival of W is for W..... will be most welcome to your adoring fans.
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