There are 483 pages in Sue Grafton's latest book, her penultimate entry (assuming I'm understanding the alphabetical titling correctly) in her Kinsey Millhone series. I somehow think that Lew Archer, the other fictional detective based in Santa Teresa, California could have polished off this little mystery in 200 pages or less.
The main plot thread here starts in 1979, in an exclusive private school. Troubled (and troublemaker) young Iris doesn't fit in well, until she latches onto popular GPoppy, who shares her affinity for misbehavior, weed, and booze. But Poppy's academic performance suffers, and Iris makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to swipe an upcoming proficiency test and its answers to "help".
Skip forward to 10 years later (1989 is Kinsey Millhone's "present") and there's been an intervening homicide, a long incarceration, a videotaped sexual assault (or was it?), an apparent fugitive from justice, and other misbehavior. Kinsey is called in when the tape resurfaces in an extortion attempt.
In addition, there's a leftover plot thread from the previous book in the series: a serial killer's back in town, and indications are that he might be targeting our girl. And there are the usual members of Kinsey's circle of recurring characters.
Now, I'm into this series for as long as it lasts, having pledged my reader loyalty over 3 decades back, back when Ms. Grafton could wind things up in a couple hundred pages. Back in 2004, before I quit Usenet and started blogging, I called her the Queen of Pointless Description because of her endless word-stuffing for no apparent purpose. Especially interior decoration of various abodes she visits. Ack!
Anyway, that trait continues here. In addition, the characters seem particularly cartoonish, their dialog unnatural. The flashbacked high school kids are uniformly unlikeable, save one. Who bows out early, because that's the homicide victim, sorry.
I noticed a few indications that even the copy editor's eyes glazed over. Example, on page 396: Kinsey's cop friend notes that his homicide investigation "takes precedence over any confidentially [sic] agreement" between Kinsey and her clients. Oh, well. Maybe my copy will be worth big money someday, like the Ben Hur, 1860, Third Edition, with the duplicated line on page one-sixteen.
But (nevertheless) I'll put my order in for Z is for Zealotry (or whatever) when it shows. If you're reading this, Ms. Grafton, could I suggest that Kinsey and Lew Archer team up? That would be neat.