Private investigator, Kinsey Millhone can't seem to catch a break. A rare shopping trip finds her in Nordstrom's lingerie department, an unlikely place for her to witness a crime, but as she debates the merits of spoiling herself with an extravagant purchase, she observes a skilled shoplifter at work. The attractive older woman appears to have a younger accomplice and when Kinsey alerts the clerk, nonstop action and intrigue are set in motion. While store security detains the older woman, Kinsey 's pursuit of the younger woman results in her almost being run over in the parking garage by the escaping thief. After Audrey Vance, the older woman, dies of an apparent suicide her elderly fiancÚ hires Kinsey to prove that Audrey was not a career criminal.
In parallel plots, Nora, the unhappy wife of a successful philandering attorney meets a handsome reputed mobster named Lorenzo Dante, Jr. when she tries to pawn her jewelry so that she can afford to leave her husband. And Lorenzo or Dante as he's known, falls in love with Nora at the same time he is trying to rid his life, home and businesses of his anorexic girlfriend, his criminally insane brother and his deposed but dangerous father. Added to this mix of characters and situations a corrupt cop who delights in belittling and humiliating Kinsey.
Sue Grafton is a master of tying seemingly unrelated storyline threads together into a thoroughly logical and fully integrated cord. In V is for Vengeance she brings back major characters from earlier books who now play minor, but important roles--Diana Alvaraez, the obnoxious reporter and Pinky Ford, the likeable crook. Tony award winner Judy Kaye, the narrator of this book, has done the audio additions of all of the Alphabet Mystery books. Her ability to create distinct voices and personalities for dozens of characters is uncanny, making her portrayals almost as memorable as the characters themselves. Kinsey's multi-dimensional personality is expertly, accurately and consistently depicted through Kaye's narration.
V is for Vengeance is a very satisfying mystery in which the question is as much about the why as it is about the who and what. Giving a character who is unmistakably engaged in criminal activities, a conscience, a sense of fair play, yearnings for love and feelings of remorse makes for a complex protagonist and an intriguing story. Kinsey and Henry are the constants, always the champions, but with some of Grafton's other characters we are torn between condemning their deeds and cheering their victories. There is a message in this book, aside from the entertaining story. Grafton uses V is for Vengeance to educate listeners about the damaging impact of retail theft, explaining why a store's slim margin of profit means increased consumer prices to make up for the theft of just a few costly items. This book is a very worthy addition to Grafton's Alphabet Mystery series.
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
Read by Judy Kaye
Random House Audio, unabridged, 15.5 hours on 12 CDs