H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8)

H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8)

4.0 85
by Sue Grafton
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

"THE LADY CAN WRITE . . .

Any reader who needs a smart and sassy P.I. would do well to hire Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. . . . H' is for Homicide continues to show the author in strong storytelling form. . . . [It] finds Kinsey Millhone working on a case involving the death of a claims adjuster for a California insurance company. The story takes her into…  See more details below

Overview

"THE LADY CAN WRITE . . .

Any reader who needs a smart and sassy P.I. would do well to hire Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. . . . H' is for Homicide continues to show the author in strong storytelling form. . . . [It] finds Kinsey Millhone working on a case involving the death of a claims adjuster for a California insurance company. The story takes her into the Los Angeles barrio in pursuit of a violent criminal, into jails and hospitals, and into a grungy bar named the Meat Locker. . . . Count on Millhone not only to corner the murderer but also to make a statement against the foibles of the insurance game."
—The New York Times

"The eighth in Grafton's bestselling series is perhaps the wildest ride yet. . . . Grafton's skill with dialogue, her vivid characterizations and California scenery are priceless. . . . There are moments when the tension becomes so unbearable that you are tempted to skip paragraphs out of self-preservation."
—USA Today

"One of the best . . . A vivid, funny portrait of life in an ethnic underworld, viewed without judgment. Suspense there is, plentifully, and a final suggestion that Kinsey will be exploring different mischiefs next time. Outstanding."
—Los Angeles Times

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Or ``H'' may be for ``Hispanic,'' as the murder of an insurance claims adjuster sends PI Kinsey Milhone undercover in a Los Angeles barrio. Following up a suspicious claim in the murder victim's files, Kinsey trails beautiful young Bibianna Diaz, recently moved up the coast to Santa Teresa from L.A. Under the alias Hannah Moore, Kinsey befriends the young woman and learns she is attempting the same scam pursued by Raymond Maldonado, her ex-boyfriend in L.A. When Raymond's brother, sent to bring Bibianna back, is shot by the young woman's new lover, an old friend of Kinsey's, both Bibianna and Hannah/Kinsey are taken to jail, where Kinsey secretly agrees to join a statewide fraud investigation. Raymond's henchmen grab Bibianna, and take Kinsey too. Kinsey's harrowing experiences include instigating car accidents as part of the scam and unearthing evidence to blow the operation. A pit bull, the surprising identity of an undercover LAPD cop and the unpredictable rages of Raymond, who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, contribute atmosphere to the PI.'s eighth alphabet escapade. The usually upbeat Kinsey seems a little dispirited here. She admits to missing Robert Dietz, her love interest who left for Germany at the end of ``G'' Is for Gumshoe , but may also be reacting to the essentially humdrum plot. Kinsey remains a star supported by a lively cast, but the insurance business doesn't test her mettle, a fact which she determines for herself, assuring readers of one thing ``I'' won't be for. 150,000 first printing; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selections; Doubleday Book Club alternate. (May)
From the Publisher

“Intelligent, fast-paced, and filled with memorable characters...Kinsey remains as engaging as ever.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Exceptionally entertaining…an offbeat sense of humor and a feisty sense of justice.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Millhone is an engaging detective-for-hire…P.I. Kinsey Millhone and her creator…are arguably the best of [the] distaff invaders of the hitherto sacrosanct turf of gumshoes.” —The Buffalo News

“Once a fan reads one of Grafton's alphabetically titled detective novels, he or she will not rest until all the others are found.” —Los Angeles Herald Examiner

“Millhone is a refreshingly strong and resourceful female private eye.” —Library Journal

“Tough but compassionate…There is no one better than Kinsey Millhone.” —Best Sellers

“A woman we feel we know, a tough cookie with a soft center, a gregarious loner.” —Newsweek

“Lord, how I like this Kinsey Millhone…The best detective fiction I have read in years.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Smart, tough, and thorough…Kinsey Millhone is a pleasure.” —The Bloomsbury Review

“Kinsey is one of the most persuasive of the new female operatives…She's refreshingly free of gender clichés. Grafton, who is a very witty writer, has also given her sleuth a nice sense of humor--and a set of Wonder Woman sheets to prove it.” —Boston Herald

“What grandpa used to call a class act.” —Stanley Ellin

“Smart, sexual, likable and a very modern operator.” —Dorothy Salisbury Davis

“Kinsey's got brains and a sense of humor.” —Kirkus Reviews

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816152810
Publisher:
Cengage Gale
Publication date:
08/28/1992
Series:
Kinsey Millhone Series, #8
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Pages:
390

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt

Looking back, it’s hard to remember if the low morale at California Fidelity originated with the death of one of the claims adjusters or the transfer of Gordon Titus, an “efficiency expert” from the Palm Springs office, who was brought in to bolster profits. Both events contributed to the general unrest among the CF employees, and both ended up affecting me far more than I would have imagined, given the fact that my association with the company had been, up to that point, so loose. In checking back through my calendar, I find a brief penciled note of the appointment with Gordon Titus, whose arrival was imminent when Parnell was killed. After that first meeting with Titus, I’d jotted, “s.o.b. extraordinaire!” which summarized my entire relationship with him.

I’d been gone for three weeks, doing a consumer investigative report for a San Diego company concerned about a high-level executive whose background turned out to be something other than he’d represented. The work had taken me all over the state, and I had a check in my pocket for beaucoup bucks by the time I wrapped up my inquiry on a Friday afternoon. I’d been given the option of remaining in San Diego that weekend at the company’s expense, but I woke up inexplicably at 3:00 a.m. with a primal longing for home. A moon the size of a dinner plate was propped up on the balcony outside my window, and the light falling across my face was almost bright enough to read by. I lay there, staring at the swaying shadow of palm fronds on the wall, and I knew that what I wanted most was to be in my own bed. I was tired of hotel rooms and meals on the road. I was tired of spending time with people I didn’t know well or expect to see again. I got out of bed, pulled my clothes on, and threw everything I had in my duffel bag. By 3:30 a.m. I’d checked out, and ten minutes later I was on the 405 northbound, heading for Santa Teresa in my new (used) VW bug, a 1974 sedan, pale blue, with only one wee small ding in the left rear fender. Classy stuff.

At that hour, the Los Angeles freeway system is just beginning to hum. Traffic was light, but every on ramp seemed to donate a vehicle or two, people pouring north to work. It was still dark, with a delicious chill in the air, a ground fog curling along the berm like puffs of smoke. To my right, the foothills rose up and away from the road, the tracts of houses tucked into the landscape showing no signs of life. The lights along the highway contributed a nearly ghostly illumination, and what was visible of the city in the distance seemed stately and serene. I always feel an affinity for others traveling at such an hour, as if we are all engaged in some form of clandestine activity. Many of the other drivers had oversize Styrofoam cups of coffee. Some were actually managing to wolf down fast food as they drove. With the occasional car window rolled down, I was treated to bursts of booming music that faded away as the cars passed me, changing lanes. A glance in my rearview mirror showed a woman in the convertible behind me emoting with vigor, belting out a lip-sync solo as the wind whipped through her hair. I felt a jolt of pure joy. It was one of those occasions when I suddenly realized how happy I was. Life was good. I was female, single, with money in my pocket and enough gas to get home. I had nobody to answer to and no ties to speak of. I was healthy, physically fit, filled with energy. I flipped on the radio and chimed in on a chorus of “Amazing Grace,” which didn’t quite suit the occasion but was the only station I could find. An early morning evangelist began to make his pitch, and by the time I reached Ventura, I was nearly redeemed. As usual, I’d forgotten how often surges of goodwill merely presage bad news.

The usual five-hour drive from San Diego was condensed to four and a half, which put me back in Santa Teresa at a little after eight. I was still feeling wired. I decided to hit the office first, dropping off my typewriter and the briefcase full of notes before I headed home. I’d stop at a supermarket somewhere along the way and pick up just enough to get me through the next two days. Once I unloaded my duffel at home, I intended to grab a quick shower and then sleep for ten hours straight, getting up just in time for a bite of supper at Rosie’s down the street from me. There’s nothing quite as decadent as a day in the sack alone. I’d turn my phone off, let the machine pick up, and tape a note to the front door saying “Do Not Bother Me.” I could hardly wait.

I expected the parking lot behind my office building to be deserted. It was Saturday morning and the stores downtown wouldn’t open until ten. It was puzzling, therefore, to realize that the area was swarming with people, some of whom were cops. My first thought was that maybe a movie was being shot, the area cordoned off so the cameras could roll without interruption. There was a smattering of onlookers standing out on the street and the same general air of orchestrated boredom that seems to accompany a shoot. Then I spotted the crime scene tape and my senses went on red alert. Since the lot was inaccessible, I found a parking place out at the curb. I removed my handgun from my purse and tucked it into my briefcase in the backseat, locked the car doors, and moved toward the uniformed officer who was standing near the parking kiosk. He turned a speculative eye on me as I approached, trying to decide if I had any business at the scene. He was a nice-looking man in his thirties with a long, narrow face, hazel eyes, closely trimmed auburn hair, and a small mustache. His smile was polite and exposed a chip in one of his front teeth. He’d either been in a fight or used his central incisors in a manner his mother had warned him about as a child. “May I help you?”

I stared up at the three-story stucco building, which was mostly retail shops on the ground floor, businesses above. I tried to look like an especially law-abiding citizen instead of a free-lance private investigator with a tendency to fib. “Hi. What’s going on? I work in that building and I was hoping to get in.”

“We’ll be wrapping this up in another twenty minutes. You have an office up there?”

“I’m part of the second-floor insurance complex. What was it, a burglary?”

The hazel eyes did a full survey and I could see the caution kick in. He didn’t intend to disseminate information without knowing who I was. “May I see some identification?”

“Sure. I’ll just get my wallet,” I said. I didn’t want him to think I was whipping out a weapon. Cops at a crime scene can be edgy little buggers and probably don’t appreciate sudden moves. I handed him my billfold flipped open to my California driver’s license with the photostat of my P.I. license visible in the slot below. “I’ve been out of town and I wanted to drop off some stuff before I headed home.” I’d been a cop myself once, but I still tend to volunteer tidbits that are none of their business.

His scrutiny was brief. “Well, I doubt they’ll let you in, but you can always ask,” he said, gesturing toward a plain-clothes detective with a clipboard. “Check with Sergeant Hollingshead.”

I still didn’t have a clue what was going on, so I tried again. “Did someone break into the jewelry store?”

“Homicide.”

“Really?” Scanning the parking lot, I could see the cluster of police personnel working in an area where the body probably lay. Nothing was actually visible at that remove, but most of the activity was concentrated in the vicinity. “Who’s been assigned to the case, Lieutenant Dolan, by any chance?”

“That’s right. You might try the mobile crime lab if you want to talk to him. I saw him head in that direction a few minutes ago.”

“Thanks.” I crossed the parking lot, my gaze flickering to the paramedics, who were just packing up. The police photographer and a guy with a notebook doing a crime scene sketch were measuring the distance from a small ornamental shrub to the victim, whom I could see now, lying facedown on the pavement. The shoes were man-size. Someone had covered the body with a tarp, but I could still see the soles of his Nikes, toes touching, heels angled out in the form of a V.

Lieutenant Dolan appeared, heading in my direction. When our paths intersected, we shook hands automatically, exchanging benign pleasantries. With him, there’s no point in barging right in with all the obvious questions. Dolan would tell me as much or as little as suited him in his own sweet time. Curiosity only makes him stubborn, and persistence touches off an inbred crankiness. Lieutenant Dolan’s in his late fifties, not that far from retirement from what I’d heard, balding, baggy-faced, wearing a rumpled gray suit. He’s a man I admire, though our relationship has had its antagonistic moments over the years. He’s not fond of private detectives. He considers us a useless, though tolerable, breed and then only as long as we keep off his turf. As a cop, he’s smart, meticulous, tireless, and very shrewd. In the company of civilians, his manner is usually remote, but in a squad room with his fellow officers, I’ve caught glimpses of the warmth and generosity that elicit much loyalty in his subordinates, qualities he never felt much need to trot out for me. This morning he seemed reasonably friendly, which is always worrisome.

“Who’s the guy?” I said finally.

“Don’t know. We haven’t ID’d him yet. You want to take a look?” He jerked his head, indicating that I was to follow as he crossed to the body. I could feel my heart start to pump in my throat, the blood rushing to my face. In one of those tingling intimations of truth, I suddenly knew who the victim was. Maybe it was the familiar tire-tread soles of the running shoes, the elasticized rim of bright pink sweat pants, a glimpse of bare ankle showing dark skin. I focused on the sight with a curious sense of déjà vu. “What happened to him?”

“He was shot at close range, probably sometime after midnight. A jogger spotted the body at six-fifteen and called us. So far we don’t have the weapon or any witnesses. His wallet’s been lifted, his watch, and his keys.”

He leaned down and picked up the edge of the tarp, pulling it back to reveal a young black man, wearing sweats. As I glanced at the face in side view, I pulled a mental plug, disconnecting my emotions from the rest of my interior processes. “His name is Parnell Perkins. He’s a California Fidelity claims adjuster, hired about three months ago. Before that, he worked as a rep for an insurance company in Los Angeles.” The turnover among adjusters is constant and no one thinks anything about it.

“He have family here in town?”

“Not that I ever heard. Vera Lipton, the CF claims manager, was his immediate supervisor. She’d have his personnel file.”

“What about you?”

I shrugged. “Well, I haven’t known him long, but I consider him a good friend.” I corrected myself into past tense with a small jolt of pain. “He was really a nice guy . . . pleasant and capable. Generous to a fault. He wasn’t very open about his personal life, but then, neither am I. We’d have drinks together after work a couple of times a week. Sometimes the ‘happy hour’ stretched into dinner if both of us happened to be free. I don’t think he’d really had time to form many close friendships. He was a funny guy. I mean, literally. The man made me laugh.”

Lieutenant Dolan was making penciled notes. He asked me some apparently unrelated questions about Parnell’s workload, employment history, hobbies, girlfriends. Aside from a few superficial observations, I didn’t have much to contribute, which seemed strange to me somehow, given the sense of distress I was feeling. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Parnell. The back of his head was round, the hair cut almost to the scalp. The skin of the back of his neck looked soft. His eyes were open, staring blankly at the asphalt. What is life that it can vanish so absolutely in such a short period of time? Looking at Parnell, I was struck by the loss of animation, warmth, energy, all of it gone in an instant, never to return. His job was done. Now the rest of us were caught up in the clerical work that accompanies any death, the impersonal busywork generated by our transfer from aboveground to below.

I checked the slot where Parnell usually parked his car. “I wonder where his car went. He has to drive in from Colgate, so it should be here someplace. It’s American made, a Chevrolet, I think, eighty or eighty-one, dark blue.”

“Might have been stolen. We’ll see if we can locate the vehicle. I don’t suppose you know the license number off-hand.”

“Actually, I do. It’s a vanity plate—PARNELL—a present to himself on his birthday last month. The big three-oh.”

“You have his home address?”

I gave Dolan the directions. I didn’t know the house number, but I’d driven him home on a couple of occasions, once when his car was being serviced and once when he got way too tipsy to get behind the wheel. I also gave Dolan Vera’s home number, which he jotted beside her name. “I’ve got a key to the office if you want to see his desk.”

“Let’s do that.”

For the next week, the killing was all anybody talked about. There’s something profoundly unsettling when murder comes that close to home. Parnell’s death was chilling because it seemed so inexplicable. There was nothing about him to suggest that he was marked for homicide. He seemed a perfectly ordinary human being just like the rest of us. As far as anyone could tell there was nothing in his current circumstances, nothing in his background, nothing in his nature, that would invite violence. Since there were never any suspects, we were made uncomfortably aware of our own vulnerability, haunted by the notion that perhaps we knew more than we realized. We discussed the subject endlessly, trying to dispel the cloud of anxiety that billowed up in the wake of his death.

I was no better prepared than anyone else. In my line of work, I’m not a stranger to homicide. For the most part, I don’t react, but with Parnell’s death, because of our friendship, my usual defenses—action, anger, a tendency to gallows humor—did little to protect me from the same apprehensiveness that gripped everyone else. While I find myself sometimes unwittingly involved in homicide investigations, it’s nothing I set out to do, and usually nothing I’d take on without being paid. Since no one had hired me to look into this one, I kept my distance and minded my own business. This was strictly a police matter and I figured they had enough on their hands without any “help” from me. The fact that I’m a licensed private investigator gives me no more rights or privileges than the average citizen, and no more liberty to intrude.

I was unsettled by the lack of media coverage. After the first splash in the papers, all reference to the homicide seemed to vanish from sight. None of the television news shows carried any follow-up. I had to assume there were no leads and no new information coming in, but it did seem odd. And depressing, to say the least. When someone you care about is murdered like that, you want other people to feel the impact. You want to see the community fired up and some kind of action being taken. Without fuel, even the talk among the CF employees began to peter out. Speculation flared and died, leaving melancholy in its place. The cops swept in and packed up everything in his desk. His active caseload was distributed among the other agents. Some relative of his flew out from the East Coast and closed his apartment, disposing of his belongings. Business went on as usual. Where Parnell Perkins had once been, there was now empty space, and none of us understood quite how to cope with that. Eventually, I would realize how all the pieces fit together, but at that point the puzzle hadn’t even been dumped out of the box. Within weeks, the homicide was superseded by the reality of Gordon Titus—Mr. Tight-Ass, as we soon referred to him—the VP from Palm Springs, whose transfer to the home office was scheduled for November 15. As it turned out, even Titus played an unwitting part in the course of events.

Copyright © 1991 by Sue Grafton. All rights reserved.

Read More

Videos

Meet the Author


Sue Grafton entered the mystery field in 1982 with the publication of 'A' Is for Alibi, which introduced female hard-boiled private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, operating out of the fictional town of Santa Teresa, (aka Santa Barbara) California. 'B' is for Burglar followed in 1985 and the series, now referred to as 'the alphabet' mysteries, is still going strong. In addition to her books, she’s published several Kinsey Millhone short stories, and with her husband, Steven Humphrey, has written numerous movies for television, including “A Killer in the Family” (starring Robert Mitchum), “Love on the Run” (starring Alec Baldwin and Stephanie Zimbalist) and two Agatha Christie adaptations, “Sparkling Cyanide” and “Caribbean Mystery,” which starred Helen Hayes. Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages. She loves cats, gardens, and good cuisine. Sue has a home in Montecito, California, and another in Louisville, the city in which she was born and raised.

Read More

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Montecito, California and Louisville, Kentucky
Date of Birth:
April 24, 1940
Place of Birth:
Louisville, Kentucky
Education:
B.A. in English, University of Louisville, 1961
Website:
http://www.suegrafton.com/

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8) 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 85 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Different than the others in the series, in a good way. Great read!
Luv2ReadFL More than 1 year ago
I just started reading the Kinsey Millhone series last year and am really enjoying them. There's humor in with the mystery and it's interesting to see the progression of time - in the first books she's using a typewriter and there are no cell phones. They are easy, fun reads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although not my most favorite Kinsey Millhone book, this harrowing story does not disappoint fans of the series. A good read and definitely recommended.
Calyvorri More than 1 year ago
Sue Grafton has found a wonderful way to portray such a great series in mystery that has some interesting twists and turns. I really enjoy her writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would give this five stars but the author has a knack for not tying up loose ends in her epilogue, having the reader wonder what happened to other important characters that won't be seen in future books, left up in the air. Denouement not good.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous 10 months ago
Hi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Black Star?
queen1964 More than 1 year ago
after i read the first book in this series i felt a connection to the character and i wanted to know more about her. as i continued through the series i have experienced love and lust and heartache with new loves, old loves, friendships and foes. I look forward to reading the rest of the series but when it ends I will miss my friend Kinsey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love reading about Kinsey Milhone! Sue Grafton does a wonderful job with Kinsey's character. I have read all the books so far from A to H and I absolutely loved "H is for Homicide! I cannot wait to read the next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am diabled and this series really helps my mood and to entertain me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my least favorite of the series so far. The undercover concept seemed too much of a reach. I'd rather see our gal on the move and answering to no one. The bad guys aren't particularly interesting; they' re just low-lives. Having just finished " J is for Judgement," I found this book inferior.
Slim20 More than 1 year ago
His name was Parnell Perkins, and until shortly after midnight, he'd been a claims adjustor for California Fidelity. Then someone came along and put paid to that line of work. And to any other. Parnell Perkins had been shot at close range and left for dead in the parking lot outside California Fidelity's offices. To the cops, it looked like a robbery gone sour. To Kinsey Millhone, it looked like the cops were walking away from the case. She didn't like the idea that a colleague and sometime drinking companion had been murdered. Or the idea that his murderer was loose and on the prowl. It made her feel exposed. Vulnerable. Bibianna Diaz was afraid for her life. If there was one thing she knew for sure, it was that you didn't cross Raymond Maldonado and live to tell the tale. And Bibianna had well and truly crossed him, running out on his crazy wedding plans and going into hiding in Santa Teresa—light years away from the Los Angeles barrio that was home turf to Raymond and his gang. Now she needed money to buy time, to make sure she'd put enough space between them. And the quickest way she knew to get money was to work an insurance scam—just like the ones Raymond was running down in L.A. The trouble was, Bibianna picked California Fidelity as her mark. And it wasn't long before her name surfaced in one of Parnell Perkins's open files and Kinsey was on her case. But so, too, was her spurned suitor, Raymond Maldonado. He had a rap sheet as long as his arm, a hair-trigger temper that was best left untested, and an inability to take no for an answer. He also had Tourette's syndrome, which did nothing to smooth out the kinks in his erratic and often violent behavior. All in all, Raymond Maldonado was not someone to spend a lot of time hanging out with. Unfortunately for Kinsey, she didn't have a lot of choice in the mater. Not after the love-sick Raymond kidnapped Bibianna. Like it or not, Kinsey was stuck babysitting Bibianna along with Raymond and his macho crew. You might say she was a prisoner of love. It was ok. It was probably my least favorite in the series so far.