“Q” Is for Quarry by Sue Grafton

Grafton, Sue. “Q” Is for Quarry (2002)
Putnam, 385 pages, $26.95 hardcover 
ISBN 0-399-14915-5           

After her worst outing yet (“P” is for poor), Kinsey is back, this time helping two aging police detectives take another crack at a cold case—a still unsolved murder from 18 years earlier. Found with her hands bound by a length of wire, the victim was a young woman with multiple stab wounds and a slashed throat. Her body had been dumped in a quarry off Highway 1 in Grafton’s fictional Santa Teresa County, California.

The relationship between the two male police detectives in this novel is a subplot that adds interest to the standard investigation into the identity of the victim and, then, of the killer. With Kinsey doing much of the routine legwork of the investigation, they have plenty of time to fuss over each other, and each becomes increasingly more protective of the other.  

Earlier in the series Grafton introduced another subplot, the story of Kinsey’s relationship with her newly discovered family, to add depth and variety to her stories. In this book, though, that subplot is a mere afterthought. It just so happens that Kinsey’s grandmother owns the quarry where the body was dumped. Kinsey once again sees her cousin Tasha and, for the first time, meets Tasha’s mother, Kinsey’s Aunt Susanna. Susanna gives Kinsey an album of family photos, but there is no significant change in the way Kinsey feels about the family that’s now trying to claim her after ignoring her for nearly 30 years.

What’s different about this book from the others in the series is that Grafton based this one on an actual unsolved homicide case from 1969. When the investigation of the case was reopened by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department in 2001, Grafton was given full access to all records. At that time the body was exhumed, and a forensic sculptor prepared a facial reconstruction. Photographs of that model appear at the end of the novel, and both Grafton and the Sheriff’s Department hope that someone may recognize and identify the young woman.

Although this novel is better than “P” Is for Peril, Grafton’s construction of a mystery around a few central details appears mechanical and uninspired. The length of time between novels is increasing, and it appears, unfortunately, that Grafton may be running out of gas, at least with Kinsey Millhone.

© 2004 by Mary Daniels Brown

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