Book review: G is for Gumshoe, by Sue Grafton

In this book, Kinsey finally acquires new things.

A new apartment, a new car (not yet seen, but certainly forthcoming), and a new man. True, the first two had to be forcefully demolished by violent criminals before she got around to replacing them, but she did! And the apartment turned into quite an upgrade, thanks to her octogenarian landlord (who seems fixed now as a father figure and not a potential love interest anymore).

The new man was also a huge upgrade from the previous specimen, in that he was neither married nor a serial killer. He is in fact a highly competent and recently retired private detective, who was able to sharpen a lot of Kinsey’s skills and upgrade her weaponry.

This was most timely, since one of Kinsey’s simpler cases turned around to bite her in the ass, as a convict she helped track down put a hit contract on her and a couple other people, one of whom is gunned down near the start of the book. The threat is real.

Here’s a good reason Kinsey needs a mentor: she doesn’t see the need to tell her beloved landlord, whose house shares the property she lives on, that a hired hitman might be after her. Really, why tell him?

I thought this plotline might be tied to Kinsey’s main case in this book — helping a woman track down her elderly mother — but they didn’t quite connect. Kinsey drove out to the desert to hunt for the woman and narrowly escape death (a pretty terrifying account of the hitman running her down, ramming her car repeatedly, and then deliberately leaving her alive when he could have killed her).

Before that narrow escape, she visits the poor lost mother, who seems fairly out of her mind and had been moved to a hospice center converted from an elementary school. This brought us the following observation:

Maybe life is just a straight shot from the horrors of grade school to the horrors of the nursing home.

After the near-fatal car crash, the retired private detective/mentor/soon-to-be-lover, a man known as Deets, swoops in to act as her bodyguard. The competent bodyguard is a favorite fantasy of mine, but Kinsey, naturally, isn’t as pleased. Kinsey is a woman who values her privacy, and it takes some time before she feels comfortable with him.

But the barriers break down, there is a sex scene in her brand new loft (frankly, I wish it had faded to black earlier, I’m not that interested in Kinsey’s sex life unless she’s getting it on with Becky the locksmith), and their relationship remains good!

It even survives Kinsey rebounding from paralyzing fear to sheer recklessness, so that she has another near-death experience when Deets needs to run out for half an hour.

What impressed me is how Deets didn’t berate her after she was almost killed while knocking door-to-door. She was really shaken up, and I felt like shouting at her myself — just a simple, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” — but he didn’t victim-blame her at all.

Despite the surveillance, Kinsey manages to gather the clues for the missing mother’s background story, while Deets finds the hitman’s ex (since the hitman also kidnapped their five-year-old son). This all leads to a most dramatic climax when, just as Kinsey’s firing her accusations at an old murderer (again, very reckless when she’s ALONE with the dude, on his property), the hitman breaks into the house, kills the old murderer, and seizes her hostage.

Then there’s a face-off outside an airport, in which the hitman kills a couple other people (Kinsey has a convincingly realistic emotional reaction to this) before confronting his ex, who has his son, and Deets. She nearly loses the boy, but there was just the right sequence of events that distracted the guman and allowed his ex-lover to blow his brains out. Very, very satisfying.

Deets heads to Germany in the wrap-up, because Kinsey must be alone, but it was a good story overall — a nice shakeup of the status quo, with the promise of some new characters and skills for Kinsey.

Can’t wait to see what her new ride is.

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