Kinsey Millhone’s 20th case, which pits her against a creepy pair of abusers who don’t know of each other’s existence, is one of her finest.
In between big jobs (S Is for Silence, 2005, etc.), Kinsey works as a process server and does spadework on insurance claims. Now (in the winter of 1987-88) she’s staying busy serving papers on a dad who owes child support and gathering evidence to show who was at fault in a low-speed traffic accident that left Gladys Fredrickson seriously injured. Kinsey doesn’t know that a more important case is unfolding much closer to home. Her irascible old next-door neighbor Gus Vronsky, tottering around his house after a fall sent him to the hospital, has fallen into the clutches of predatory caregiver Solana Rojas. Hired by Gus’s self-absorbed great-niece to check out Solana’s credentials, Kinsey is initially fooled because Solana, whose backstory Grafton unfolds in a series of chapters from her point of view, isn’t really Solana; she’s stolen her identity from someone whose record is clean. Settling into Gus’s house, Solana begins to pick him clean while Kinsey’s distracted by her caseload, which eventually leads her to a child molester quite as frightening in his way as Solana.
Each of Kinsey’s cases stretches the private-eye formula in new ways. Her 20th, which reads like vintage Ruth Rendell, will bring shivers to every reader with an aged parent—or a young child.