'A' IS FOR ALIBI
A shakily plotted but otherwise terrific start for a new detective series--with Kinsey Millhone, twice-divorced California private eye, as the enormously engaging narrator. Funny but not too cute, tough and liberated but not too loud about it, Kinsey is grand company as she re-investigates an old case: eight years ago womanizing divorce lawyer Laurence Fife was poisoned, second wife Nikki was convicted, but now Nikki is out of jail and wants Kinsey to find the real murderer. The main new lead: Laurence's death was shortly followed, it turns out, by the similar fatal poisoning of accountant Libby Glass, who did work for Laurence and partner Charlie Scorsoni. Was Laurence having an affair with Libby? So it seems. But Kinsey leaves no suspect un-suspected: she talks to Laurence's first wife; to the grown kids from that first marriage; to Libby's ex-colleagues, sad parents, and surly old boyfriend; to Laurence's former secretary Sharon, now a dealer in Vegas (who's murdered just before Telling All); to sexy Charlie--whom Kinsey is in bed with fairly soon. And though the two-part solution is a let-down (Grafton stoops, disappointingly, to yet another Maltese Falcon-ry, with Charlie as Mary Astor), the suspects are a consistently interesting group, many of whom work (grooming dogs, sewing, laying bricks) while they talk--a simple but beguiling added texture. Agreeable heroine (only her running is a bore), fine dialogue, a great eye for people and places--so we're looking forward to "B" through "Z," especially if Grafton can tighten up her plotting.