Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Review: "P" Is for Peril by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #16)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters, as always
Cons: The book ends very abruptly
The Bottom Line:
A missing doctor
The mystery starts out well
But then it just stops

Missing Doctor Leads Kinsey to Peril

While I only started Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries a few years ago, I’ve been aware of them for years.  After reading “P” is for Peril, I remember some of the comments about the book from the time it was published almost 20 years ago, and I certainly understand them.

Nine weeks ago, Dr. Dowan Purcell vanished without a trace.  Now, his ex-wife, Fiona, has hired PI Kinsey Millhone to figure out what happened to him.  Kinsey isn’t sure she can cover any ground that the police haven’t already covered because they have been as thorough as they can be, but she gamely agrees anyway.  Soon, she is caught in a web of speculation.  It seems everyone has a theory, from Fiona to Dr. Purcell’s current wife, Crystal, to family and friends.  But can Kinsey find any clue to figure out what actually happened to him?

This book wastes little time getting the mystery started.  I knew that we’d have some great twists along the way, and I wasn’t at all disappointed.  The book contains a very strong sub-plot as well, which was just as engrossing as the main mystery.

Once again, the characters were wonderful.  In just a few words, these characters leap off the page for us, and even when secrets come to light, they make sense with what we already know about the characters.  Since the book takes place in Kinsey’s native Santa Teresa, we get a few updates on the regular character’s in Kinsey’s orbit, and I always enjoy spending time with them as well.

Even the weather works in this book’s favor.  It’s set in a cold and rainy November, and that atmosphere seeps out of the pages for us.  While the events of the book aren’t really any darker than the rest of the series, you feel like something dark and foreboding is coming the entire time.

So, what doesn’t work?  The ending.  It is abrupt.  The story just kind of stops.  Yes, Kinsey has figured things out, or at least it looks like she has.  I have my theory of what has happened and why, but it could still be one of several possibilities.  I know that ambiguous endings can be popular in literary fiction, but they don’t work in mysteries.  I want to know who the killer is and why, and since I could list two vastly different theories without breaking a sweat, it definitely doesn’t work in this case.  Even the sub-plot, which has more of a definite climax, leaves a couple of things dangling, although I think I can piece together what really happened in that case.  There is quite a bit to the plot of the book, and I’m wondering if the story got away from Ms. Grafton and she felt pressure to wrap things up quickly.

I’m now on my second audio book with Judy Kaye as the narrator.  I’ve gotten used to her take on Kinsey and she did a wonderful job at bringing the new characters to life as well.  I’m still struggling with her take on the regular supporting characters, especially Henry and Rosie.  But I’m sure I will adjust as I listen to more books, and this is a minor issue overall.

The more I think about the ending of “P” is for Peril, the less satisfying I find it.  If you are a fan of Kinsey, you’ll definitely want to read this book, but if you are new to the series, don’t jump in here.

Need more Kinsey?  Here are the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries in order.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Ambiguous endings simply do not work with mysteries. They always leave me feeling cheated, and I particularly hate them when they come from one of my favorite mystery writers - like Grafton.