“V” Is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

Grafton, Sue. “V” Is for Vengeance (2011)
Putnam, $27.95 hardcover  
ISBN10: 0399157867  
Audiobook by Random House Audio. Narrated by Judy Kaye 

While shopping at a department store, Kinsey witnesses a woman obviously stealing some expensive merchandise. She reports what she has seen to a store clerk, who then notifies security. Kinsey hangs around to keep on eye on the woman until a security guard arrives and soon notices a second shoplifter. When security arrives, Kinsey takes off in pursuit of the second woman, who makes it to her car in the parking garage before Kinsey can catch up with her. For her effort in tracking this woman Kinsey is nearly run down as the woman speeds out of the garage.  

Not long after this incident a man hires Kinsey to look for his fiancee, who has been found dead beneath a local bridge. The police are calling her death a suicide, but he is convinced foul play must have been involved. When Kinsey asks for a photo of the woman, he produces a picture of the very woman Kinsey had reported for shoplifting. Wondering if the shoplifting and her death could be related, Kinsey takes the case.

Except for the prologues, which characteristically crystallize a key event of the plot, most of Kinsey’s previous adventures have been narrated exclusively by her, in the first person. But this book alternates between Kinsey’s first-person narration and third-person presentation of two other major characters. The result is a confusing story that is difficult to follow. Much of the book presents characters individually, in serial fashion; it isn’t until well into the book that the separate lives begin to intersect in any meaningful way. Even the prologue of this book fails in its purpose. By the time we learn the significance of the prologue’s event, we’ve forgotten about what happened earlier to a character who is only tangential to the story.

Amazon’s page for this book includes the following:

Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Sue Grafton

As with the last several books in the series, V Is for Vengeance was a long time in the making. I work by trial and error, keeping a running account of the process in journals that in this case totaled 967 single-spaced pages. It took me from March, 2009 until March, 2010 to settle on a storyline, and after that, it was ten months of hard labor. Women give birth to babies in less time, but surely without as much suffering. Brave soul that I am, I stuck with it, picking my way painstakingly from beginning to middle to end.

Unfortunately, the novel reflects Grafton’s trouble with the story. She might have been better off to have started over at some point instead of continuing to wrestle with a narrative that didn’t want to be tamed. When writing becomes so difficult, there’s usually a good reason why.  

© 2012 by Mary Daniels Brown

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