Book review: D is for Deadbeat, by Sue Grafton

If you’re looking for a mediocre mystery with a total downer of an ending, I have just the book for you!

(Spoilers coming, obviously, though frankly this is one of those times when I would have appreciated a warning about the ending. I was thinking, surely this book isn’t going to end with a fifteen-year-old leaping from a high-rise. That would be way too much of a downer — well, shit.)

At least I got to know Kinsey better.

For instance, we have the same solitary dining habit of reading TIME magazine (though I read mine front-to-back, like any stodgy unimaginative person comforted by rigorous order in the world). And she makes me want to take a New Year’s resolution of learning to run three miles on a regular basis, dammit.

But I don’t agree with her aunt’s opinion that learning to cook just makes you fat. And what does eating at restaurants all the time do to you, I wonder? What about learning to cook affordable, healthy, delicious meals? What else can you live for, when everything else in your life is mediocre or disappointing??? The day might suck, but at least you can console yourself with being able to make a tasty meal exactly to your liking when you get home. (This may be personal for me.)

Also, she doesn’t want a new car because it might mean higher registration fees.

For all the silliness of these mysteries, I am oddly comforted by Kinsey’s peace with her single life. Even though she is drawn to the weirdest men, like Billy Polo, crook and bum extraordinaire. Also she felt way too defensive of Johnny Dagget, a man of the exact same ilk plus drunk driver who killed a young boy’s entire family and some other people too. And gave Kinsey a bad check.

But at least she only slept with a cop (albeit a married one) she’d been yearning after for a couple books now, and it brought us this great line:

No one observing us could have guessed that mere hours ago, we’d been cavorting stark naked on my Wonder Woman sheets.

Other notable moments relating to Kinsey’s peculiar sexual urges included her admitting that “everyone knows I’m half in love” with her octogenarian landlord. Thank you, Kinsey, acknowledgement is the first step. (Honestly, if they don’t get it on at some point before he dies, I’m going to be disappointed.)

Other things that bothered me:

  • A woman she’d just met spouted forth with surprising eloquence all her insecurities and traumas due to her alcoholic father who just died. It’s a highly unlikely monologue, but she does end with a good line: “There’s a law for everything, except what families do to you.”
  • When asked why women stay with men who beat them, Kinsey says, “I have no idea” EVEN THOUGH the woman in question had explicitly told Kinsey she was afraid he’d kill her, God, Kinsey, weren’t you listening
  • Kinsey somehow feels it’s disrespectful to ask a dying man “Who shot you?” like it might not be some comfort to know that his killer would be brought to justice

The plot may be faulted for bearing a too-realistic depiction of the grind of detective work when there’s nothing to go on and no support from anyone until the less-realistic Final Clue falls into your lap — but besides that, this book did have the best moment of detective work I’ve ever seen from Kinsey:

She’s trying to eavesdrop on a trailer, but the music inside is too loud, so she walks around to the front door, bangs on it and yells, “Turn down the noise, we’re trying to sleep!” They oblige her, and she walks back around to listen with much better success.

The plot was also frustrating because I never empathized with the victim and felt baffled by Kinsey’s method of questioning all these housewives for alibis, then taking offense or becoming suspicious when they don’t respond well. I will claim a “called it!” moment, though, because at one point when she was wondering who the key suspect blonde woman might be — it could, after all, have been anyone — I thought to myself, “It could even be that teenage boy, for all we know” and lo and behold…

Coming up: my first Nora Roberts book, because nothing else I’ve requested at the library has come in yet (which means they’re all going to come in at once and I’ll never be able to finish them before they’re due).

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