A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Out of her element

In H Is For Homicide, the 8th entry in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone/Alphabet mystery series, the author shelves her usual "Kinsey working for a client" scenario and instead presents plot elements that result in Kinsey going undercover, posing as a member of a crime ring specializing in car insurance scams.

The result is a tense, gritty, urban story that disconcerts the reader as well as Kinsey, as both are left wthout the comfort of Kinsey's usual supporting cast (the series' regular faces and trappings are seen only briefly at the beginning and end of the book). But, with its fresh scenarios and different types of plot turns, it's an invigorating kind of disconcerting, at least for one installment in a series that we suspect will return comfortably back to normal next time.

Highlights include watching Kinsey look, act, and dress like a criminal, while trying to avoid actually doing anything criminal (at least anything seriously bad); and watching Kinsey develop a genuine friendship with one of the female scammers, Bibianna Diaz, whose life can possibly be salvaged, if Kinsey can get her away from her psychotic boyfriend and crime-ring leader, Raymond. Oh, there's also a big, growly dog, and we know what Kinsey thinks of dogs. But she deals with him in funny, unusual ways. Eventually touching, too.

Oh, no sooner do things pretty much settle back to normal at the end, than Kinsey and her loyal readers are hit with another disconcerting plot turn: a bombshell & cliffhanger (delivered in the last line of the book, no less) that will stir things up in the next installment, too, but probably only a little, thankfully.

After all, followers of well-liked mystery series like this one actually do want a little cozy predictability along with the thrills and surprises. Anyway, I anxiously look forward to Ms. Grafton's next Kinsey Millhone adventure to see how those various elements are stirred into the batter.

H Is For Homicide is available for $7.99 on Kindle.

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