Book review: P is for Peril by Sue Grafton

p-is-for-peril-by-sue-graftonThis is Grafton’s ongoing saga about private investigator Kinsey Millhone. It is terrible in many ways. Let’s itemise a few.

Spoilers? Not really, because there is no coherent plot.

One: the central mystery about a missing, highly respected doctor has no connection points. It’s all tell and no show. Having most characters say how marvellous he is/was achieves not much. So we don’t really care how that central story unfolds.

Two: the secondary plot about the two brothers is more interesting, even though they are cardboard through and through.

Three: the artifice used to ‘discredit’ the brothers – the insurance investigator – is suspect from the start. Elsewhere we are repeatedly told how careful Kinsey is in checking facts. Not here? Why?

Four: the supposed changes in Kinsey’s view on the brothers – from interesting and maybe potential relationship with one, over to near-terror – is limp. We are told this but have no evidence to go by, only hearsay from the phony insurance investigator.

Five: when in doubt, follow the money. Either the brothers have lots of money and properties, with rents rolling in, or they don’t. To suggest they are nearly broke but with huge expensive house and a small fleet of expensive cars, is dumb. Either they are brilliant criminals – not even a charge let alone a conviction – or they are perfect everywhere else but outstandingly dumb just by being in Kinsey’s neck of the woods.

Six: the climax of the brothers’ tale is even more dumb. Richard is going to kill Kinsey. The brothers fight while Kinsey cowers. Richard kills Tommy. Then Richard gets into his car and drives away! Leaving Kinsey to phone the police! So Richard gets caught easily a little later! What?!?!

Seven: follow the money 2. Meanwhile Kinsey’s neighbour and landlord just happens to uncover the scam behind the doctor’s difficulties. Out of the blue, and with no obvious reason (the paper trail was cold), this is presented as the ‘breakthrough’ link to Kinsey’s investigation.

How and why did the doctor disappear/die? Who cares?

But, if you want a ‘crime’ non-thriller full of comments on architecture, in-depth details about furniture and furnishings, and every item of clothing of many characters – from their shoe type and heel size right up to their hairstyle, then this is the book for you.

P is for Peril? You bet! Peril for the reader!