Sue Grafton was a Hollywood scriptwriter for 15 years before her "Alphabet" series of mystery novels garnered her enough fame and fortune to stick it to the movie-making machinery. Her skill in creating character and suspense is clearly evident in the opening chapter of V is for Vengeance, the 22nd edition of the collection starring spunky private investigator Kinsey Millhone.
Like director Quentin Tarantino with a camera, Grafton deftly juxtaposes characters to set up a scene that crackles with tension. In one corner is Philip Lanahan, a naive, overconfident Princeton toff, requesting a loan for one last hurrah in Las Vegas; in the other corner, the man with the dough, Dante Lorenzo - clever, ruthless and suave as an oil slick. The boy is clearly outmatched, so when he loses at the gambling table, there's no surprise. But there is shock - the chapter ends with a ba-ba-boom flourish of Lanahan's body smashing onto the pavement.
If only Grafton continued in this vein.
While it's understandable that, at this late stage in her series, she would want to play with the formula that has made her successful, her blending of genres and styles is disorienting for readers expecting a conventional thriller.
The series' heroine, Kinsey Millhone, enters the scene when her curiosity leads her to investigate the apparent suicide of a woman she'd caught shoplifting at a posh department store. Millhone's search leads her to a professional shoplifting ring led by gangster-chief-trying-to-go-straight Dante Lorenzo, the same man who lent young Lanahan $10,000 to gamble and threw him off a building when he could not pay in time. Or did he? Dante may be ruthless, but he's a mob boss with a conscience. He even falls in love.
Parts of V is Vengeance are told from Dante's point of view. Others through Millhone's and Nora Vogelsang's, a high society wife. The shift between perspectives is jarring.
So, is the story a cheeky mystery? A look into high society shenanigans? Or a gritty gangster drama? The mash-up leads to patchy exposition. Nora's son dies under mysterious circumstances, resulting in her alienation from her husband. Yet, this information is not revealed until much later in the book. Thus, on first impression, Nora comes across as shallow and cold, hardly sympathetic character material.
Readers familiar with Grafton's previous works will probably appreciate her attempt to keep the story fresh by tweaking a tried and true formula. Those new to the series will encounter a quirky heroine doing her thing amid the milieus of Candace Bushnell and Martin Scorsese.
>>Get a copy of this e-book
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
Actors and directors flock in front of the cameras but how do they choose their outfit? Unlike evening dresses for the female stars, men do ... More Actors and directors flock in front of the cameras but how do they choose their outfit? Unlike evening dresses for the female stars, men do not follow trends and must respect the rule of tuxedos! Interviews with Tomer Sisley, actor and Arnaud Legrand, director of the Ermenegildo Zegna boutique in Cannes.
Date 23/5/13, Duration 1:54, Views 6