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Friday, March 8, 2013

V Is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton ($7.99) (c2011)

Do I need my temperature taken, my obsession level checked, my craving for neatness -- in other people's lives -- curbed? Why is the most satisfying part of a Sue Grafton novel seeing Kinsey Millhone tidy her house and office, shuffle her index cards, meticulously organize her stakeout kit (including peanut butter and pickle sandwiches)? It isn't that I didn't like the storyline about shoplifters, a criminal gang, a couple of murders, love among the rich and morally wacky, and coyote scat. I enjoyed the story and Grafton's re-creation of the 1980s, the time bubble in which Kinsey is preserved. (At one point, Kinsey's push-button desk phone breaks, so she pulls out a rotary dial phone from her office cupboard and remarks on how ancient it seems.)

Grafton's early books were slender and to-the-point. "B Is for Burglar," for example, was about 200 paperback pages long; "V" is about 400. Kinsey's great first-person narration appears in only about two-thirds of the book. The other third was third-person, following the lives of Dante, a Mafia-type gangster, and Nora, a Beverly Hills housewife-type. I couldn't drum up the requisite sympathy for or interest in their characters, people caught in unsustainable lifestyles. Kinsey, however, is a different story. I LOVE Kinsey.

Forever and a day I will enjoy watching Kinsey push around unidentifiable glop at Rosie's restaurant and tootle around Santa Theresa, a thinly disguised Santa Barbara. I can smell landlord Henry's baking through the pages. (Although he is largely absent in "V.") Who needs a mystery?

"V" was fine. There were good people, bad people, a bad person who really got his comeuppance (yay!), and morally in-between people. But give me 200 good pages of Kinsey and we'll call it a triumph.

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