So here we are at the 18th Kinsey Millhone mystery, and as is the case with a lot of these books, this is a really mixed bag. However, this time, it's the non-case work that's the most interesting (pretty sure that's a first for me). There were some moments to the main story, but on the whole I found it dissatisfying.
Kinsey's hired by the father of Reba Lafferty, a soon-to-be-paroled woman, to pick her up from the prison and accompany her for the first few days, help her get established on the outside – he's too old and frail to do this himself, and there's no other family to call upon. It doesn't take long before she's teetering on the verge of parole violations and seeking revenge on those from her old life that wronged her before and/or during her incarceration. Kinsey spends the book trying to minimize the damage and help out various law enforcement agencies who have an interest in Reba's targets.
On the whole, I found this story to be wholly predictable and I couldn't understand why Kinsey was allowing this woman to pull her around by her nose. Maybe it's because Reba becomes the closest thing she's had to a female friend since her days with an office in the insurance agency building. Regardless, there's no excuse for someone with Kinsey's experience to act like she does here.
There's one character involved with Reba's family that primarily serves as a giant red herring – mostly for the reader – I don't remember Grafton doing that before. Sure, Kinsey's investigated a dead end or two from time to time, but I don't recall Grafton misleading the reader like this before. This was a totally useless character and source of conflict that went nowhere.
It isn't the first time that it's occurred to me during this series, but the back of my mind screamed about it this time: this book, especially the last 100 pages or so, would be radically different if it were set in the last decade or so rather than in the mid-80s. You put cell phones and email in the hands of Rachel, Kinsey and various law enforcement officers and this book just doesn't play out like it does. So often this series has plot developments hinge on Kinsey returning to her home or office to check messages or make a call – or her not knowing something because she couldn't do that. I understand Grafton keeping everything to that era, but man, it'd be fun to see Kinsey work a case now.
As I said, the part of the book that worked best for me was the personal-life stories, but I find it difficult to talk about them without getting very spoiler-y, so I'll keep this to bullet points.
* As interesting as I find the saga of Kinsey's reconnecting with her mother's family, I was glad to get a break from it in this book – Q is for Quarry had a lot of movement on that front, and it was good to let that settle a bit more.
* I trust Grafton has an end game in mind on the Henry's love life, particularly where his brothers are involved, I just hope we see what it is soon. I was utterly unimpressed (as I think we were supposed to be) with the behavior of William and Lewis here, not that Henry came off much better
* I'm not sure what I think about the whole Chaney-romance thing. Sure, the seeds were planted a while ago, but things seemed almost too good here. Still, nice to see Kinsey happy/content/on the verge of it – and not deluded like she was with Dietz or the married cop; or self-destructive like she was with her exes.
Not my favorite in the series, but there's enough here to keep me going. Eh, at this point I'm in through Z is for Z___, who am I trying to kid?