older adults in literature

“T” Is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Grafton, Sue. “T” Is for Trespass (2007)
New York: Putnam, 400 pages  
ISBN: 0399154485
Random House Audio, narrated by Judy Kaye


Starting a new Sue Grafton novel always means getting reacclimatized to Kinsey’s world. For Kinsey (lucky woman), time is not passing nearly as quickly as it is for her readers. At the beginning of this novel it feels good to be reassured that Kinsey still lives in her studio apartment behind Henry’s house and that she and Henry are both well.

One day shortly before Christmas, 1987, Henry and Kinsey discover their neighbor, Gus Vronsky, lying on the floor in his house with a dislocated shoulder. He has taken a nasty fall and is transported to the local emergency room, from which he is sent to a skilled nursing facility. Gus, age 89, is a sour, cranky  man whose only living relative is a great-great niece, Melanie, an ad agency exec who lives 3000 miles away, in New York City. (Melanie is an alumna of Boston University, my alma mater.) The nursing home won’t send Gus home until there is someone to care for him. Grudgingly, Melanie makes the trip from New York (read: she’s shamed into it over the phone by Kinsey) to arrange for home care for her uncle.

Melanie’s newspaper ad for a home health aide brings only one reply, a licensed vocational nurse named Solana Rojas. Relieved that she can finally return to New York, Melanie hires Solana, then asks Kinsey to do a short background check on her. Kinsey checks Solana’s education and job history and finds everything in order.

But the woman who has moved in next door is not really Solana Rojas. (I’m not giving anything away here because the reader knows this from the beginning.) Henry and Kinsey become increasingly uneasy about Gus’s situation, but there’s little that they can do about it. And Solana is always one devious step ahead of them.

In the meantime, Gus changes from a cranky old man who never passes up an opportunity to complain very loudly about something to a whimpering baby. Kinsey and Henry aren’t completely aware of the change in Gus because Solana keeps him out of sight. But the reader knows in detail what’s going on over at Gus’s house. Grafton’s picture of how easily someone can take advantage of an older person like Gus is painful to read because it’s so starkly accurate.

In her latest novel Grafton takes on the hefty issues of identity theft, elder abuse, and the all-round vulnerability of older adults in our society. While this isn’t the best novel in the series (I still reserve that designation for “K” Is for Killer and “M” Is for Murder), it is a realistic and sobering picture of what can happen when people outlive all their caring kin.

Because Kinsey is a such a comfortable old friend, I was stunned to realize that there will be only six more books before Sue Grafton finishes the alphabet. In Kinsey time, that means that Grafton will probably finish the series before Kinsey has to adapt to high-tech items such as computers and cell phones. I wonder what Grafton, now 67, will do next.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown

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