V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Alas, I cannot recommend Sue Grafton's next-to-newest novel, "V Is For Vengeance". I have read all her Kinsey books, except for "W", and while the quality of the plot and the characterizations in "V" remain on the usual quite solid level, some other components of the writing skill seem to have deteriorated. The book does not convey the feel of the time and place - mid-Eighties in central coastal California (the famous fictitious Santa Teresa). What's worse, Ms. Grafton uses about twice as many words as needed to carry the same load of plot, characterizations, and mood. Do we need to know all minutiae of all characters' looks and dresses? Do we really need a second-by-second descriptions of their mundane activities? For example, page 231 of the hardcover edition features the following fragment "I set the paperback aside and ate my sandwich, well aware that I was running through my food supplies at too quick a pace. I took out my wet wash rag and wiped my hands." What purpose does the second sentence serve? I am happy that Kinsey Millhone follows basic principles of hygiene, but drowning in an ocean of totally irrelevant detail is not conducive to enjoying reading the book. I am seriously afraid to begin "W Is For Wasted". Will I be forced to learn which hand Ms. Millhone uses to take a sanitary napkin out of the packet?
The plot interweaves four threads that center on the characters of Kinsey, Dante who is a high-class loan shark (if this is not an oxymoron), Nora, a wealthy socialite woman, and a small-scale thief and rascal Pinky Ford. The novel begins with Las Vegas scenes that seem to be quite separate from the rest of the book; of course we eventually see the relevance. In fact, the Las Vegas scenes are very well written, and the description of the poker game sounds authentic. I also like how neatly all threads connect towards the end of the novel. And, of course, I still like Kinsey Millhone, clever, fiercely independent, yet prone to lapses in judgment. Quite human and believable.
On the negative side, I am really getting tired of Rosie's zany Hungarian entrees, of William, and of the whole Henry gang. Of course, I find it understandable; note how the "age center" of Ms. Grafton's novels (the average age of characters) creeps to higher and higher numbers as she herself ages. Kinsey was about her age when the series started, and now the detective is way younger than Ms Grafton's daughter would be. That probably explains the fascination with geriatric topics. I hope that readers younger than I am enjoy reading about old-age problems and behaviors. Being a close-to-geriatric case myself, I rather don't. Moreover, if I am to read about the same characters for the n-th time, I would like to learn at least something new about some of them. No such luck here. Also, the chatty, wordy, "cozy" writing style does not fit the somewhat serious ending, it tends to trivialize the events in the plot.
Definitely not Ms. Grafton's best work, but an interesting story nevertheless, and without the logorrhea, it might have been a good mystery.
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