W is for Wasted

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I picked up a paperback of A is For Alibi by Sue Grafton in a long-gone Crown Books in Bethesda, Maryland back in the early 80's. I fell behind Ms. Grafton's chronicles of hardboiled female private eye Kinsey Millhone for awhile, but now I've caught up again. W is for Wasted is an above-average entry in the series. Kinsey is confronted with two deaths: one, a homeless guy named R. T. Dace has passed away on the Santa Teresa beach, apparently of natural causes acerbated by his substance-abusing lifestyle. But he has Kinsey's name and phone number in his pocket. And, to Kinsey's surprise, R. T. is a long-lost relation. (Kinsey's lack of knowledge about her family tree has been an occasional plot point in previous books.)

The second death occurred a few months previous: private eye Pete Wolinsky was shot for reasons unknown. Although ostensibly in the same line of work, Pete was as shady as Kinsey is honest. Numerous flashbacks describe the events leading up to Pete's demise. We learn that, although he is professionally slimy, he loves his wife dearly, and he's fond of feeding the pigeons.

Are these two deaths connected? Well sure. Sorry if that's a spoiler. Kinsey half-blunders into the connection (about a hundred pages after most readers will have seen it coming), but she follows things through to a satisfying conclusion.

The book is padded out to 480 pages; I assume this is a contractual obligation. In addition to the main plot, there's plenty of irrelevant and unnecessary detail, and side narratives involving Kinsey's usual acquaintances. (And there's a surprise appearance by a guy I thought was gone for good. No spoilers on that, but I hope we see him again in X, Y, or Z.

So I know much more than I did about the Beale Memorial Library on Truxtun Avenue in Bakersfield, CA. ("The interior was spacious and smelled of new commercial carpeting. The ceiling was high and the light was generous. I couldn't even guess at the square footage or the number of books the building housed, but the patrons had to have been thrilled with the facility. …" Sheesh. Sorry, I just don't care whether they were or not.)

But I just fast-forward through that stuff now. Rest assured that what's left is worthwhile: when Ms. Grafton is good, she's really good.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 5:44 AM EDT