Archive for August, 2012

V is for Vengeance

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

V is For Vengeance – A Kinsey Millhone Mystery

Sue Grafton

G.P. Putnam, 2012 [Penguin]

416 pages

 

Summary of V is for Vengeance

A spider web of dangerous relationships lies at the heart of V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton’s daring new Kinsey Millhone novel. A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.

V: Victim. Violence. Vengeance.

My Take:

V is for Vengeance is a superb example of Grafton’s best writing which, given her previous book, U is for Undertow, had me worrying her writing was in a decline. This is one of her best in a formidable list of 22 alphabet books. Kinsey remains her best independent, stubborn, intractable self, still stuck in the ‘80s without a cell phone, the internet, or a computer. She still uses a Smith-Corona typewriter for goodness sake.

The book begins innocently with Kinsey doing her civic duty and foiling a shoplifter but quickly careens into a deadly game of underworld stolen goods.

As always, she battles evil on her own. Her skewed belief  that most people are naturally venal was something she established in her first book, A is for Alibi: “Except for cases that clearly involve a homicidal maniac, the police like to believe murders are committed by those we know and love, and most of the time they’re right – a chilling thought when you sit down to dinner with a family of five. All those potential killers passing their plates.”  You can see that she is morosely satisfied to be proven right time and again, which does not make her the life of any party and contributes to her isolation.  In this book even her customary occasional friends are noticeably missing: no boyfriend cop, none of her on-again, off again Lompoc relatives make an appearance, and even her debonair 80-something landlord Henry is out of town. I confess I begin each book hoping this time she will find her soul mate, but am resigned that she will break up and revert to her familiar detached existence.

Nevertheless, I love Sue Grafton’s writing. She captures the essence of Kinsey’s character in pithy sentences like: “I generally frequent the low-end chain stores, where aisles are jammed with racks of identical garments, suggesting cheap manufacture in a country unfettered by child labor laws. Nordstrom’s was a palace by comparison…”.  I hope her books are mandatory reading in Writing 101 classes.

My Rating: As always for Grafton this is a 5 out of 5. U is for Undertow is the only one of the alphabet books I wouldn’t rate a 5 (probably a 3.5).

The Last Single Maverick

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Christine Rimmer

Harlequin, 2012

Publishers Summary:

Look out ladies: there’s another Traub bachelor in town! Jason “Jace” Traub is every bit as gorgeous as his sexy twin brother, but rumor has it he is even more marriage shy. There’s not a woman alive who could make this restless rancher settle down…

Yet insiders whisper that Jace has been talking wedding plans with Jocelyn Bennings, the chestnut-haired beauty who ran out on her own wedding just days ago! Could the confirmed bachelor really be hooking up with
heartbroken, headstrong Joss? Stay tuned, loyal readers, to find out if their marriage of convenience runs amuck—or if lasting passion will finally rope in the last single maverick!

My Take: 

Another Traub brother bites the dust in a fun romantic read. All the ingredients are present: rich handsome hero, beautiful heroine. The characters are likable and the story moves right along to the predictable ending which is why we all read and enjoy them.

However, I’ve read all the Traub books and find the same problem with each. The author’s premise that the Traub men don’t know what love is and therefore are unable to commit is not in character with the family background. A man raised in an intact family, with brothers he loves, and parents who are in love with each other and who love him is not believable when he says he doesn’t know what love is. He could be leery of it, or not ready for it, but to say “I don’t know what love is” is not in keeping with the characters of the story.  Christine Rimmer needs to find another hook that is more believable.

I liked that they began their relationship with a friendship.  It’s too bad more couples don’t realize the importance of being friends before being lovers.  It would help a lot.

The author misses chances to take dialogue to a deeper level.  After they attended church she poured her heart out to him and when she thanks him for listening, his response of “Happy to help,” missed a chance for him to reciprocate, and deepen the story.

Finally, the two main characters names, Joss and Jace, are too alike, and it was hard to keep them straight.

My Rating: I loved it.

 

Dictionaries are for amateurs

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

I come from a family of avid readers.  When other families gather, they play ball or watch sports on TV. We’re confused. Why would they waste precious time doing that?  Our get togethers consist of exchanging stacks of books with other siblings. We keep lists of recommended authors on us in case we pass a used-book store and have ten minutes to stop and browse.  However we’re not purists who insist on holding an actual paper book, all of us have embraced eBooks. I have the cachet of being the first sib to discover how to check out books on them through the Public Library.

Despite our fear an eReader wouldn’t give the intrinsic pleasure of holding an actual book, the prospect of never being without a book outweighed any misgivings.  I now carry, to date, 382 books in my purse on my Kindle. Thus far we’re one hundred percent in the Kindle camp, but we wouldn’t sneer at a Nook user; we would just warn them that if they do buy a Nook, it won’t be compatible and therefore they won’t be able to borrow from us.

However, our prolific reading has an embarrassing downside. It makes us assume we are more knowledgeable than we are. For example, when we happen upon an unknown word we don’t immediately pick up the dictionary – dictionaries are for amateurs. The context of the sentence gives us the meaning of the word. For instance, when I read “Her vermillion handbag, matched her scarlet shoes,” I know that vermillion is a synonym for scarlet and my mind paints it a brilliant tomato red.  We look good on paper because we can spell the word and use it correctly and thus continue on in our ignorance.

Our shortsightedness shows up when we have occasion to introduce these new words into our conversation.  For example, I was in college before I realized that a false front was not a fuh-kade as I always said in my mind when I read it, it was a fuh-sod.   And chaos, pronounced chay-ose in my mind, turned out to be kay-oss. This one is a bummer because I actually like my pronunciation better. The ignorance continued because I became enamored with foe-kuh-chee-uh bread, and scowled when the salesperson didn’t understand what I wanted. She had to gently explain that it was foe-kay-sha bread.

Our most humorous – and David, I hope you’re still in Rwanda and won’t read this – happened at supper when we were teens. Sitting around the table, talking about a supposed friend who had suddenly become stuck-up, David muttered, “He’s so pee-us.” In our conservative God-fearing, Bible-reading home we’d never heard such profanity. Then it clicked. “It’s pious, David, pious.” As in the way of all good stories, it’s become our word for holier-than-thou individuals ever since.

Surely the Brueggemann’s aren’t the only family who suffer from malapropism.  Share yours and let us laugh at someone besides ourselves.

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