From: James R. Winter ( winter_writes@earthlink.net)
Date: 18 Jul 2005

I loved the Alphabet Series right up through F. They were short, tight, and very blunt. Then we come to G IS FOR GUMSHOE, and I almost dumped the series at that point. There was too much novel and the Dietz subplot did nothing for me. H IS FOR HOMICIDE brought Grafton back to form, but it just wasn't the same as before.

And that's what I came away with after reading I IS FOR INNOCENT. It's classic Kinsey. Her boss, now a lawyer instead of an insurance company, is getting ready to sue David Barney for wrongful death. Rather prescient when you consider this was written pre-OJ. Barney was accused of murdering his wife to get the proceeds from her estate. Her ex-husband, concerned for his daughter's future, wants to give the civil courts a shot. The original PI on the case dropped dead of a heart attack, so Kinsey's asked to pinch hit. Not good since the trial is a week away, and the deceased detective didn't have the most organized notes in the world. In fact, he was overbilling Lonnie Kingman, the lawyer, in a desperate attempt to pay his dying wife's medical bills.

Kinsey dives in and soon starts to suspect the case is going to fall apart. Barney starts to look innocent, especially when he points out a police report that puts him two miles from the crime scene during the window when Isabel Barney could have been murdered. And there's no shortage of people who had motives - A sister grown often left holding the bag - and in one case, injured from - Mrs. Barney's wild ways, the businessman who gave the Barneys their start, the businessman's wife, and even a friend of the deceased with something to hide that the truth eventually exposes. The book is more intricately plotted than any Grafton novel to this point, and the characters better fleshed out.

Unfortunately, it's also padded to an extent. While Grafton has fun with some of the details and descriptions, she goes overboard at times. One of the gems in the book is Kinsey driving into a new yuppie development and sarcastically describing the area in real estate jargon. However, she then spends a page and a half describing a house where everything is built to miniature proportions. It's almost as though, in spite of Grafton's dislike of the marketing BS from realtors, she's gotten very keen on houses and thinks the readers should be, too. At least the Henry subplot, wherein Kinsey's landlord has to deal with his annoying brother for a few weeks, is kept to a minimum.

Despite the padding, this one hit all the right notes. It's certainly better than the previous two Kinseys (and a damn sight better than G), but some of the spark from the early series is gone. I liked it, but it didn't knock me over.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Jul 2005 EDT