Back in 1969, Det. Stacey Oliphant of the county sheriff’s office and Lt. Con Dolan of Santa Teresa Homicide discovered the body of a young woman in Grayson Quarry who was never identified. Now that Stacey’s been diagnosed with lymphoma, Con, himself sidelined by his heart condition, asks Kinsey Millhone (P Is for Peril, 2001, etc.) to do the legwork for the aging buddies as they struggle one last time to close the case. It’s an impossible job. Whatever legal or medical records might have helped are long gone (though Kinsey’s hopeful that Jane Doe’s distinctive teeth may still tell a story); potential witnesses’ memories have faded or been addled by repeating the same story too many times; and the two lead investigators are at serious risk, not from the perp, but from death of natural causes. The convoluted, fact-based tale—studded with masterful portraits of the dying detectives, a couple of dead-alive ex-cons, and the might-as-well-be-dead suspects—has run half its course before the victim is identified as a wild high-school girl who slept around so indiscriminately and exhaustively that half the population of little Quorum, California, seems to think her violent death was no more than she deserved.
Despite a bumper crop of Q’s, the late-arriving whodunit is tangled and routine, and Kinsey’s latest inconclusive flirtation with her own past—the owner of Grayson Quarry turns out to be the grandmother she’s never spoken to—awaits resolution, perhaps in R Is for Relatives.