The folks at Penguin are eagerly counting down the latest from Sue Grafton, V is for Vengeance, and leading up to the November release, are taking a look back at some of Grafton’s previous titles with reviews of some of the alphabet by ten bloggers. Up for grabs are three complete sets of books Q, R, S, T, U and, of course, V. To enter to win, make sure to leave a comment on all 10 participating blogs. Here’s what I thought about R is for Ricochet.
In R is for Ricochet, by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhouse, a private investigator hailing from Santa Theresa, California, is hired by wealthy Nord Lafferty to escort his daughter, Reba, home from jail. Kinsey is to take a few days to help her shop, see her parole officer and acclimate to life on the outside. Though she is supposed to keep out of trouble, Reba reconnects with Beck, a former employer who had her imprisoned for embezzlement, who is now wanted by the FBI for money laundering. How much Reba knew and at one point is anyone’s guess, and Kinsey finds herself in the thick of things when Cheney, a police officer on whom Kinsey is crushing, asks her to get Reba to help with the government’s case.
This was my first Sue Grafton novel and in some ways, R is a good place to come into the series. It is a slower novel, with a lot of time is devoted to exploring the sleepy town in which Kinsey lives, as well as her work habits, romantic life and relationships with her neighbors. I was expecting more of a traditional mystery, and readers looking for the same might be surprised with the structure of this offering. This book is less about solving a crime that has been committed, that information is known right away, than it is about the curious friendship that develops between Kinsey and Reba, the particulars involved in bringing a criminal to justice, and whether the binding ties of a relationship will be betrayed in the pursuit of justice. There is some suspense and action but it is heavily featured in the latter part of the book.
In most of R is for Ricochet, Kinsey is contemplative about her past relationships but still ready to embark on new ones, and in the unfolding of Reba’s complicated history with Beck and possible complicity in his crimes (all in the name of love) Kinsey considers what it means to have a friend, who she is when she’s in love, how easily love can be a destructive force as well as a good one. She tries to counsel not only Reba but her friend Henry in matters of the heart. Readers are deeply immersed in Kinsey’s world – her nervous cleaning habit, half-hearted morning runs, love for atrociously salt enhanced fast food and the time she spends at Rosie’s with her friends Henry, William and Rosie. Grafton’s novel is simply written and sometimes overly detailed but the characterizations are strong and I felt as if I knew Kinsey well enough to be frustrated by some of her motivations and efforts and curious as the outcomes of the situations in which she found herself embroiled. R is for Ricochet put me in the mind of the old-fashioned hard-boiled crime novel, and was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.
If you missed the first three sneak peeks and other reviews of Q & R, go back and check them out: Lesa’s Book Critiques – Jen’s Book Thoughts – Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White. And on Tuesday, October 11, head on over to Devourer of Books for V’s next installment, as well as a review of S!
And now for the fourth installment of V is for Vengeance.
He took the elevator to the fourth ﬂoor, surprised when he realized it was dark outside. His hands shook so badly, it took him two tries to get his key to work. He locked the door behind him and stripped off his clothes, leaving a trail across the ﬂoor: shoes, socks, pants, shirt. He smelled of ﬂop sweat. In the bathroom, he dropped two Alka-Seltzers into a glass of water and drank down the still-ﬁzzing mix. He showered and shaved, then pulled on the hotel robe, a white terry cloth garment that hit him at the knee and gaped unbecomingly when he perched on the edge of the bed. He punched in the number for room service, ordering an Angus steak sandwich, medium rare, hand-cut fries, and two beers.
Forty-ﬁve minutes passed before the food arrived and by then both the fries and the steak were cold. The beef was choice instead of prime and too tough to bite through. He’d had to discard the bun and cut the meat with his steak knife. He chewed until the meat was a ﬂavorless wad. He had no appetite. He was sick at heart. He pushed the cart to one side. He’d nap for an hour and then go down to the casino and try his luck again. He really had no choice. With four hundred dollars in chips, he had no idea how he’d get back on top, but there was no way he’d leave town without Dante’s money in hand.
There was a knock at the door. He glanced at the clock. 9:25. He’d had the presence of mind to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the outside knob and he was tempted to ignore the intrusion. Probably a complimentary fruit bowl or a bottle of bad wine. Amenities of that sort were always delivered at odd hours when you had no use for them. The knock came again. He crossed the room and put an eye to the spy hole.
Dante was standing in the corridor. Phillip could see two more men approaching from down the hall. When he’d returned to his room earlier, he’d ﬂipped the dead bolt into the locked position and swung the elongated V of the safety lock into place. What were the chances of the three going away if he didn’t answer the door? Dante had no way of knowing he was in his room. He might have gone out without removing the plastic tag that hung over the knob. He debated brieﬂy and decided it was better to face him. His only hope was to ask for an extension. Dante would almost have to agree. What else was he going to do? Phillip didn’t have the money and if he didn’t have it, he didn’t have it.
Phillip undid the locks and opened the door.
Dante said, “I was beginning to think you weren’t here.”
“Sorry about that. I was on the phone.”
There was a moment of silence.
“You going to let me in?” Dante asked. His tone was mild, but Phillip detected the edge.
“Of course. Absolutely.”
Phillip stepped back and Dante entered the room, with his two companions sauntering in behind him. The door was left open and Phillip didn’t like the feeling that anyone passing down the hall could see in. He felt vulnerable, barefoot, wearing the hotel robe, which barely covered his knees. His clothes were still strewn across the ﬂoor. The remains of dinner on his room-service tray smelled strongly of ketchup and cold fries.
Dante wore a dove gray silk shirt, open at the collar, and fawn- colored slacks. His loafers and belt were made of the same honey leather. The two men with him were more casually dressed.
Dante nodded at one. “My brother, Cappi,” he said. “That’s Nico. You met him.”
“I remember. Nice seeing you again,” Phillip said. Neither man acknowledged him.
Cappi was in his forties, a good eight years younger than his brother; ﬁve foot nine, maybe, to Dante’s height of six two. He was fair, his hair an unruly thatch of dark blond, spiked with gel. He had a fashionable two-day growth of beard, light eyes, and a jaw that jutted forward slightly. The malocclusion offset his otherwise good looks. He wasn’t the same natty dresser as his brother. Where Dante’s clothes were high quality and tailored to ﬁt, Cappi’s gray-and-black polyester shirt was worn loose over stone-washed jeans. Phillip wondered if he carried a gun.
Nico, the third guy, was heavyset and soft, wearing jeans and a T-shirt too tight for his bulging gut. Cappi moved to the open door while Nico popped his head into the bathroom, checking to see that it was empty. Dante crossed to the window and turned to survey the accommodations, taking in the eight-foot cottage-cheese ceiling, the furnishings, the drab wall-to-wall carpeting, the fourth-ﬂoor view. He said, “Not bad. Wouldn’t hurt ’em to sink serious money into the place.”
Phillip said, “It’s nice. I appreciate your putting in a good word for me.”
“They treating you well?”
“Great. Couldn’t be better.”
“Glad to hear that,” Dante said. “I ﬂew in an hour ago. It’s been a while since I was here and I ﬁgured as long as I was in the neighborhood, I’d see what you were up to.”
Phillip couldn’t think of an appropriate response so he said nothing. He watched to see which Dante was in evidence, the kind man or the hidden one with his malicious heart and dead eyes. He thought the good one was in charge, but he knew better than to make assumptions.
Dante leaned against the chest of drawers. “So how’s it going? You said you’d be coming in to see me. We had a date. What was it, August 11? Day before yesterday.”
“I know. Sorry I didn’t make it, but something came up.”
There was a moment’s pause while Dante absorbed the news. He didn’t seem upset. “Happens to all of us. A phone call would have been nice, but here you are.” His manner was casual, as though he couldn’t have cared less. Phillip felt a cautious relief. He’d been aware of the deadline he’d missed and half expected Dante to make a fuss.
He said, “I appreciate your understanding.”
“Would you quit with the fucking appreciation? It’s getting on my nerves.”
Dante moved away from the chest of drawers. He put his hands in his trouser pockets and ambled along the periphery of the room, checking the room-service menu still sitting on top of the television set. “What exactly came up? You had a social engagement, something you couldn’t tear yourself away from?”
“I meant to call, but I got sidetracked.”
“Well, that explains everything,” Dante said. “So how’s it going now that you’re on point? You don’t look happy.”
“I played well at ﬁrst, but I’ve had a stretch of bad luck. I didn’t want to short you so I was waiting until I had the full amount.”
“Fair enough. Which is when?”
“I was just on my way down to the casino. I was at the table all day and came up to rest, you know, freshen up . . .”
“Empty your pockets and let’s see what you’ve got.”
“This is it for now.” He picked up his chips and held them out to Dante, who stared.
“Four hundred dollars’ worth? Out of the ten grand I trusted you with—you got four hundred left? Are you out of your mind? I made you a loan. I told you how much it was going to cost you. Any ambiguity? I don’t think so. You’re into week two and the vig’s up to ﬁve grand. What am I supposed to do with this?”
“That’s all I have. I can get the rest of it in a week.”
“I didn’t offer you a layaway plan. You knew the terms of the deal. I did what I could to help you. Now you help me.”
“I’m not able to do that, Mr. Dante. I’m sorry, but I can’t. I feel terrible.”
“As well you should. How do you propose to raise the rest of it? You’ve got no credit left.”
“I was hoping you’d give me an extension.”
“I already did that and this is what I get. You told your parents about the money you owe me?”
“Oh, no, sir. Absolutely not. I promised to give up gambling after they bailed me out last time. I’ll tell ’em if I have to, but I’d prefer not.”
“What about your girlfriend?”
“I told her I was going camping with a friend.”
“You call this camping?” Dante shook his head. “What am I going to do with you? You’re a moron, you know that? Big ego, hot talk, but in the end you’re a putz. You pissed all your money away and now it’s my money you’ve blown. And for what? You think you’re a poker champ? There’s no way. You don’t have the skill, the talent, or the brains. You owe me twenty-six grand.”
Phillip said, “No, no. That’s not right. Is that right?”
“You’re on the hook for my expenses getting over here.”
“Because I came on your account. How else am I going to talk to you when you don’t show up when you said you would? You missed our appointment so I had to come on short notice, which meant chartering a ﬂ ight. Plus, I got these two goons to pay.”
“I can’t do it. You told me twenty-ﬁve dollars per hundred on ten grand . . .”
“I understand, but that’s only ﬁve grand. You just said so yourself.”
“Plus interest on the interest, plus the late fees, plus expenses.”
“I don’t have it.”
“You don’t have it. You have nothing of value anywhere in the world. You own nothing. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I could give you my car.”
“Do I look like a guy who owns a used-car lot?”
“Not at all.”
Dante stared at him. “What’s the make and model?”
“1985 Porsche 911, red. It’s worth over thirty thousand dollars. It’s in pristine condition. Perfect.”
“I know the deﬁnition of ‘pristine,’ you asshole. What do you owe on it?”
“Nothing. It’s paid for. My parents gave it to me for graduation. I’ll sign the pink slip right now and hand it over to you.”
“And it’s where, this fancy paid-for car of yours?”
“In the parking garage.”
“I parked it myself to save the expense.”
“Well, aren’t you the frugal one. How far up?”
“I ought to have my head examined.” He glanced at his brother. “You two go up with the kid here and take a look at his car, tell me what you think. I want it checked out. Find a local mechanic if you have to.” He turned to Phillip. “The car better be as advertised. I’m running out of patience.”
“I swear it is and thank you.”