I'm going to the dentist tomorrow. The last time I was there, he told
me that if I felt any pain I should raise my left hand, since raising
my right hand would smack him in the face.
Remember the raising the left hand thing.
It's a cliché of detective fiction that Private Investigators don't
like missing persons cases. They complain about those as much as divorce
work. Missing people don't want to be found. Still, people don't hire
detectives to find non-missing persons, so the detectives take the cases.
Dr Dowan Purcell is Kinsey Millhone's missing person in P is for
Peril, the latest of the Alphabet mysteries from Sue Grafton.
Kinsey sometimes says she thinks taking a case is a mistake - missing
person or whatever - but she always takes the case.
Dr. Missing is a respected doctor running a nursing home. He left work
and never showed up anywhere. There's money missing from his savings and
where is that passport? He's disappeared before but he's been gone an
awfully long time. His first wife thinks the police could be doing more.
Everybody thinks he's dead.
Licensed Private Detective Kinsey Millhone - being hardboiled - insists
on a retainer before trying to follow up on the nine-week-old case. Once
she's on the case, we're treated to a police procedural as straight forward
as the old Dragnet TV show. Kinsey covers all her bases without expecting
to find the good doctor if the police couldn't, even though the cops are
pretty helpful this time around.
The investigation leads us through Purcell's first marriage and divorce,
a Medicare fraud investigation, and tittering about the respectable elderly
doctor marrying - giggle - a showgirl and having - gasp
- kinky sex. There's his second wife, their young child, her child from
a previous marriage, her child from a previous marriage's no-good friend,
the previous husband who looks sinister, her possible lover, the doctor's
first wife and kids, the doctor's employers, and an old friend.
Kinsey's index cards come in pretty handy keeping all this straight. The
mystery in this book is mainly solved by pulling out all the extraneous
facts until there is nothing left but the doctor's disappearance.
There's a lot of talking.
There's one very cool moment where Kinsey finds the doctor. I nodded and
Anyway, since the main plot of geriatric hi-jinx offers no physical danger
for Kinsey or anyone else, Kinsey's personal life drags in some villains.
Any hints about this plot will spoil it. I'm just bummed out that Grafton
dropped so many hints herself.
Remember the hand thing from the beginning of this review? Hold this book
in your right hand while you read it. When you know - know - Kinsey
is being set up, raise your left hand.
Okay, it's true of Kinsey's world that everybody tries to take advantage
of her except for her gang of wacky sidekicks. People try to put stuff
over on her all the time, but I guarantee your left hand will shoot up
at a certain page.
Don't raise your right hand or you'll smack yourself in the face with
the book. I wish Grafton hadn't smacked us in face with it in the first
I've enjoyed the alphabet books - some more, some less.
This is going into the less pile for me. Out of five, I'm giving it:
TWO HARDBOILED DETECTIVES
If you're one of those people who can list off the titles in (what else)
alphabetical order (like me), you've already read this book.
is for Peril