The collected short cases of Kinsey Millhone, plus a substantial bonus that wasn’t included when the stories were originally published in a limited edition in 1991.
The two qualities that distinguish Grafton (V is for Vengeance, 2011, etc.) from her competitors are amply on display here. Her Santa Teresa shamus is beyond question the most likable of all private eyes, and she never writes the same story twice—except when she recycles an ancient trick for telling the difference between an inveterate liar and his truth-telling brother in “The Lying Game.” “Full Circle” is a routine account of how Kinsey tracked down the man who shot the driver who was cutting Kinsey off on the freeway. But “Non Sung Smoke” works surprising variations on its fatal drug scam, and “Long Gone” and “A Little Missionary Work” cap their tales of embezzlement and kidnapping with nifty final twists. “Falling Off the Roof” and “A Poison That Leaves No Trace” work impressively different changes on the clients who suspect their loved ones were murdered. The seriocomic “Between the Sheets” is a fast-paced search for the corpse that vanished from the bed of his lover’s daughter. And the best of these tales, “The Parker Shotgun,” combines the ingenuity of Agatha Christie and the compassion of Ross MacDonald. The bonus is a cycle of 13 slight but piercingly sensitive vignettes about Kit Blue, an autobiographical figure Grafton used to explore her conflicted feelings about her alcoholic parents in the years before Kinsey came on the scene to tilt her world toward felony and set it reassuringly in order.
Though the collection is less revealing about Kinsey than her novels are, it offers a rare sustained glimpse inside Grafton—and a fine way to pass the time until W is for Whatever.