The release of a 24-year-old who’s aged out of his juvenile conviction for murdering one of his schoolmates reopens old wounds for everyone concerned and brings Santa Teresa private eye Kinsey Millhone (X, 2015, etc.) to the case.
Even though Fritz McCabe was the one who did the time for killing Sloan Stevens, her death seems to have been the fault of nobody and everybody. Frozen out by her classmates at posh Climping Academy after reportedly exposing Iris Lehmann’s scheme to pass high-stakes test answers to Poppy Earl and Troy Rademaker, Sloan was shot 10 years ago while running away from Troy, who together with Fritz, Austin Brown, and Bayard Montgomery, had driven her out to the Yellowweed camping ground. Fritz’s parents, Lauren and Hollis McCabe, have welcomed him home, but they’re distinctly less happy to have received a copy of a sex tape several members of this crowd made shortly before Sloan’s death, along with a note demanding $25,000 for its destruction. Lauren, fearing the theft of the original tape may have provided a motive for Sloan’s murder, wants Kinsey to get to the bottom of the mystery—until she doesn’t, firing her for calling the kids-turned-adults liars when they claim the tape was nothing but a mockumentary lark. Kinsey’s just as pleased to be free of the case: Lauren McCabe’s been anything but a model client, and Kinsey already has to deal with the unrelated threat of Ned Lowe, a serial killer on the lam who’s set his sights on her. But her respite from both the Yellowweed shooting and her own stalker is all too brief, and soon a present-day murder and the threat of even more violence force her back to both cases.
Any time spent with Grafton’s inimitable shamus is one of the highlights of the year, but her 25th case drags on forever before ending with a whimper. Fans won’t mind as they cheer the series on to Z Is for Zany, or whatever the endlessly resourceful author has in mind.