V is for Vengeance is an exciting and rewarding book, weaving an intricate plot with interesting and thought-provoking characters. While I anticipated two of the major end-of-the-book revelations, I wouldn’t say that that reflects a weakness in the story or spoils the story for others who might also guess what is coming.
I must also admit that I put the book down half-way through the first chapter, not wanting to go where I thought Grafton was taking me with the adventures of the young gambling addict. But when I returned to the book I was able to get through that chapter and enjoy the rest of the book, which, thankfully, does not force one to spend too much time with the idiocies of a young addict.
Many crime & detection novels insist on generating what to me seem to be artificial conflicts between the police and the P.I. or amateur detective hero. This book does not do that. There is conflict between Kinsey and the police department, but it does not involve any de rigeur turf battles.
The main plot centers around Kinsey’s investigations after she is instrumental in spotting a shoplifter and helping in her arrest. Kinsey is convinced this is more than an isolated shoplifting event, but the police are not. The book weaves her investigations around a group of interesting and ultimately inter-related personalities, the main one being a loan-shark crime boss who is ambivalent about his criminal activities and his gangster inheritance. Another important theme is the drama of love, sex, and infidelity among the rich of southern California.
The book continues to use some of the leitmotifs of the series: Kinsey’s propensity to bend the law and take risks, her relations with Henry her landlord and with Rosie her neighborhood restaraunteur who insists on serving sometimes inedible Hungarian dishes along with bad Chardonney, and her unsuccessful love life—though in this episode there is no current significant other. Missing from this volume is Kinsey’s ambivalent relation with her extended family, a theme which, barring some significant new developments, has probably been sufficiently milked.
There continue to be occasional lapses in style. Many reviewers have noted Grafton’s propensity to belabor the obvious in her attempt to provide concrete details of the situation. I didn’t find too much of that in this book, but it happens here and there. And there are the occasional lapses of excess:
“Nora kept her manner light and saw to it that exchanges between the two of them were firmly anchored in the superficial.”
“[A]nchored in the superficial”?
“The window slid up. He put the car in reverse and backed across the courtyard until he had the necessary clearance to pull out, which he did with a testy chirp of his tires.
“The next thing she knew, he was gone.”
? I mean—she saw him get in the car and drive away. So “the next thing she knew”?
“[B]ut she’d learned to avoid negotiations when one or the other of them was in high dudgeon.”
Does anyone actually use “in high dudgeon” in their internal dialogue?
But, these quibbles aside, this is a fun and rewarding book. More satisfying in a number of ways than U is for Undertow.