V is for Vengeance

Review: Sue Grafton has another choice letter

“V is for Vengeance” (Marian Wood Book/G.P. Putnam’s Sons) by Sue Grafton: “V Is for Vengeance,” and it’s also for very, very good.

With just a few letters remaining in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series of mysteries, the author has hit a high mark with her latest offering, a complex tale of love, betrayal, ambition and, of course, murder.

“V Is for Vengeance” begins with Kinsey Millhone nursing a broken nose (and two black eyes) that she got from poking it into other people’s business.

The hardworking private detective was shopping in the lingerie section of a department store when she spotted a pair of women who were shoplifting, and they were making quite a haul: a lacy teddy here, a pair of silk pajamas there.

But Kinsey, a former cop, wasn’t about to let them get away with it. She reported them to the salesclerk. Security was called. One woman was arrested, the other one got away.

Kinsey is shocked when the woman who was arrested later turns up dead, apparently a suicide. Then the dead woman’s fiance shows up and asks Kinsey to investigate, saying there is no way the happy woman he knew would have been shoplifting, and certainly no way she would have killed herself.

Grafton has been following Kinsey’s cases since “A Is for Alibi.” But the years haven’t hurt her heroine. In this latest book, it’s 1988 and she’s celebrating her 38th birthday, still single, still in love with her 88-year-old landlord and still enjoying bad meals and bad wine at Rosie’s.

She’s not much older, but she is much wiser, especially after her latest case.

The same could be said for Grafton, who presents a variety of well-developed, interesting characters and several points of view, not just Kinsey’s. It’s a further step in what Grafton started in “U Is for Undertow.”

The only bad thing: There are just four letters left in the alphabet.