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W IS FOR WASTED
by Sue Grafton
Putnam, September 2013
484 pages
$28.95
ISBN: 0399158987


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Throughout Kinsey Millhone's alphabetical stint as a private eye, she, and the issues she encounters have become more complex, deep, and satisfying. In W IS FOR WASTED, one experiences Sue Grafton the mature and capable writer handling the difficult issue of homelessness. Of the most recent works by the "Three Divas": J.A. Jance, Anne Perry, and Sue Grafton, W IS FOR WASTED has my vote as the best.

Kinsey is perhaps less stridently feminist, perhaps less playful and risky, but still fun and interesting to follow in her pursuits. For instance, she uses the word "gloatworthy," which is just one word and just one emotion in a slew of slightly improper thoughts with which Kinsey has entertained us over the years.

In W IS FOR WASTED, she is called to ID a John Doe, a homeless man whom Kinsey ultimately finds to be a Terrence Dace. Terrence keeps Kinsey's name on a slip of paper in his pocket and has a half million dollars in a safety-deposit box. Kinsey spends part of the novel finding the relatives of the dead man and tracing why a homeless man would possess a fortune, own a small library of books, and draw elegant botanical works which he gathered into small folios.

In a thread that runs parallel to Terrence's story, Pete Wolinsky, compulsive spender and blackmailing detective, has been found shot to death. As you may have figured out by now, these two threads are connected later in the novel. However, the novel's strength lies in meeting Terrence's homeless pals, visiting a homeless shelter, and reading a rather large-spirited understanding of homeless lives.

The usual crew makes an appearance: William, fascinated with his own illnesses, has shown up with a cat; Henry provides luscious distractions to all comers, including one he shouldn't have, and Rosie serves up unpronounceable victuals made of parts we didn't know one could cook. Although the novel's villain has wreaked havoc on multiple lives out of his greed, Kinsey does wrap up what may be preserved.

Cathy Downs, professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is a confirmed fan of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, September 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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