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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2011

With alphabet running out, Sue Grafton just gets better

BY MARY FOSTER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

V Is for Vengeance, and it's also for very, very good.

With just a few letters remaining in Sue Grafton's alphabet series of mysteries, the author has hit a high mark with her latest offering, a complex tale of love, betrayal, ambition and, of course, murder.

V Is for Vengeance begins with Kinsey Millhone nursing a broken nose (and two black eyes) that she got from poking it into other people's business.

The hardworking private detective was shopping in the lingerie section of a department store when she spotted a pair of women who were shoplifting, and they were making quite a haul: a lacy teddy here, a pair of silk pajamas there. But Kinsey, a former cop, wasn't about to let them get away with it. She reported them to the salesclerk. Security was called. One woman was arrested, the other one got away.

Kinsey is shocked when the woman who was arrested later turns up dead, apparently a suicide. Then the dead woman's fiance shows up and asks Kinsey to investigate, saying there is no way the happy woman he knew would have been shoplifting, and certainly no way she would have killed herself.

Grafton has been following Kinsey's cases since A Is for Alibi. But the years haven't hurt her heroine. In this latest book, it's 1988 and she's celebrating her 38th birthday, still single, still in love with her 88-year-old landlord, and still enjoying bad meals and bad wine at Rosie's.

She's not much older, but she is much wiser, especially after her latest case.

The same could be said for Grafton, who presents a variety of well-developed, interesting characters and several points of view, not just Kinsey's. It's a further step in what Grafton started in U Is for Undertow.

As Kinsey wanders among old friends, old enemies, old flames, and some old memories, readers also get to see the thinking of some of the other characters as she tries to sort out twisted leads -- and they try to sort out tangled emotions. For such a string of very disreputable characters -- a petty thief, a corrupt cop, a member of the mob and a woman wronged -- many turn out to be sympathetic.

Although Grafton and Kinsey have been together for a long time, neither shows signs of slowing down or getting stale.

The only bad thing: There are just three letters left in the alphabet.



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