'N' IS FOR NOOSE
In the weeks before a heart attack killed him, Tom Newquist, a sheriff's investigator in Nota Lake, Cal., was tormented by something he couldn't share with his wife. Now that he's dead, Selma Newquist wants Kinsey Millhone to find out what that something was. Nosing around little Nota Lake, Kinsey doesn't find anything but the obligatory threats and personal attacks; relatives and co-workers who seem dying to tell Kinsey the stories of their lives but get very closemouthed about Tom; and a lead to a pair of murders (one of them five years old) back in Kinsey's own Santa Teresa. The rumor is that Tom suspected one of his law-enforcement colleagues of complicity in the killings, But that clue, which ought to narrow things down, is useless when practically everybody in Nota Lake--from Tom's kid brother Macon to his partner Rarer LaMott to the chatty, suspicious civilian clerks at the sheriff's substation--seems to be with the county sheriff or the highway patrol. So it's no surprise that when Kinsey returns to Nota Lake still searching for the clue to Tom's distress, the town snaps shut in her face--she can't even fill her VW's gas tank--and she's left with only a single lead from a Santa Teresa sheriff's clerk hopelessly, and memorably, in love with Tom. Grafton's probing group portrait of Nota Lake starts slowly, but her patient revelations of the complicated relationships Tom Newquist left behind make this her best work since "K" Is for Killer (1994).