Tuesday, April 7, 2015

W is for Wasted

I've never believed that genre fiction sits on a lower rung of the quality ladder than straight fiction.  Good writing with complex, believable characters make a good novel, whether the plot involves simmering family resentment or a dead body.  W is for Wasted includes both, as well as medical fraud, a shady investigator, and return appearances by two of Kinsey's ex-boyfriends.

The dead body belongs to a homeless man who had Kinsey's name and office phone number in his pocket.  She's never seen him before, but business is slow so she decides to investigate her dead potential client.  Terrence - R.T. Dace - turns out to be an exonerated ex-con who wanted to clean up and reconnect with his now-grown children.  Dace's son and daughters didn't care about their father, alive or dead, but they are interested in the half-million dollar settlement he received from California for his false imprisonment.

It's all very straightforward (Dace must have found Kinsey's address in the phone book and planned to hire her as a go-between with his family) until Robert Deitz shows up.  He and Kinsey haven't spoken since the end of their affair, but there wasn't any bad blood until a sleazy investigator named Pete Wolinsky used Kinsey's name to subcontract a job out to Dietz, inflate his bill to his client, and then stiff Dietz because, well, by then Wolinsky is a stiff himself - shot at a bird refuge a few weeks before Dace died on the beach.

Grafton neatly connects the two crimes, with clean logic and few coincidences.  It's so cleverly constructed that it's difficult to review without spoiling.  It's enough to say that W is for Wasted, like the three preceding installments is a highlight of this long-running series.  As Kinsey approaches 40 (and Grafton approaches retirement), she's exploring issues with wider impact than simply uncovering insurance fraud, and wrapping serious discussions in novels which, although they're hard to put down, cannot be dismissed as merely "page-turners."

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