L Is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone Series #12)

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Overview

"L" Is for Lawless: Call it Kinsey Millhone in bad company. Call it a mystery without a murder, a treasure hunt without a map, a quest novel with truly mixed-up motives. Call it the return of Kinsey as bad girl - quick-witted and quicksilvery, smart-mouthed and smart-alecky - poking her nose into everyone's dirty laundry as she joins up with a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in an Our Gang comedy that will take her halfway across the country and leave her with a major headache and an empty bank balance. America's favorite borderline delinquent is ...
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Overview

"L" Is for Lawless: Call it Kinsey Millhone in bad company. Call it a mystery without a murder, a treasure hunt without a map, a quest novel with truly mixed-up motives. Call it the return of Kinsey as bad girl - quick-witted and quicksilvery, smart-mouthed and smart-alecky - poking her nose into everyone's dirty laundry as she joins up with a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in an Our Gang comedy that will take her halfway across the country and leave her with a major headache and an empty bank balance. America's favorite borderline delinquent is back with her one-liners on tap and her energy level on high, romping through her fastest and funniest adventure in this, her twelfth foray into the alphabet of crime.

Kinsey Millhone's latest is her most spellbinding mystery yet--and her biggest book to date! When Kinsey agrees to do a favor for her elderly landlord, she finds herself on the trail of a decades-old crime.

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  • Tagged! Interview: Sue Grafton
    Tagged! Interview: Sue Grafton  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bemused, beleaguered and begrimed, Southern California's premier PI, Kinsey Millhone leaves her hometown of Santa Teresa in an adventure (her 12th in the alphabet series) that begins straightforwardly enough but quickly twists into a knotted string of untruths. While getting ready for the Thanksgiving Day wedding between a local tavern keeper and the elder brother of her landlord, Kinsey agrees to help the family of recently deceased neighborhood WWII vet, Johnnie Lee, find out why the military has no record of his service. Soon after Kinsey has finished looking (fruitlessly) through his papers, Lee's rooms are burgled, and Ray Rawson, who claims he is an old friend recently arrived in Santa Teresa unaware of Lee's death, is beaten up. Kinsey soon finds herself on a plane bound for Florida, in possession of only the clothes she's wearing and her purse( with an extra toothbrush), trailing a young pregnant woman in possession of a duffel bag spirited from Lee's home. On a stopover in Dallas/Fort Worth, Kinsey sleuths disguised as a hotel maid dusting baseboards (``tough to picture the boy detectives doing this,'' she reflects), meets the increasingly unreliable Rawson again and encounters yet another figure from Lee's past, a violent, vengeful psychopath. While gradually sorting out the connections among this cast, Kinsey travels to Louisville, where Rawson's 80-something mother proves her mettle and Kinsey, determining that lawless, in this case, is neither adjective nor collective noun, unravels a decades-old mystery. 750,000 first printing; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In her 12th alphabetically entitled appearance (e.g., "K" Is for Killer, Holt, 1994), plucky private investigator Kinsey Millhone is just doing a favor for a friend-checking the military status of a recently deceased neighbor-when she's sucked into a chase for the spoils of a 1941 bank heist. It's a lively outing with a couple of heart-pounding scenes, some interesting characters (the most memorable: a half-blind 85-year-old grandmother who wields a shotgun and a baseball bat), and even a little detection. There are also hints of Kinsey's connecting with long-lost relatives, plus a romatic wedding of octogenarians. And, as usual, Grafton gives enough background so it's not necessary to start reading the series at "A." With Grafton's legion of fans growing and her first print runs escalating from 150,000 for "H" to 750,000 for "L," every library with mystery readers should have this book, preferably in multiples. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/95.]-Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.
From the Publisher
PHENOMENAL PRAISE FOR THE MYSTERY NOVELS OF #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR SUE GRAFTON

 “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

From Barnes & Noble
Private eye Kinsey Millhone is back with her one-liners on tap, romping with a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde through an Our Gang-style comedy that takes her halfway across the country and ends up leaving her not only with a major headache but with an empty bank balance to boot! In Sue Grafton's twelfth foray into the alphabet of crime, Kinsey meets her duplicitous match in a couple of world-class prevaricators who quite literally take her for the ride of her life. Some of the scenes Ms. Grafton most enjoys writing are about the imperfections of her heroine. "I work to keep her flawed and inconsistent," she says. The flaws are, for many readers, a major part of Kinsey's charm. After all, who can resist a character who sometimes lies "just to keep up my skills"?--Enid Nemy, The New York Times.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553714883
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/1902
  • Series: Kinsey Millhone Series , #12
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 4.90 (h) x 0.99 (d)

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 (a.k.a. Santa Barbara) California. ‘B’ IS FOR BURGLAR followed in l985 and since then, she has added 19 novels to the series, now referred to as “the alphabet” mysteries. In addition, she’s published eight 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.

Biography

Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages -- including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She's an international bestseller with a readership in the millions. She's a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen to mine: "The mystery novel offers a world in which justice is served. Maybe not in a court of law," she has said, "but people do get their just desserts." And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D. MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents.

But who is the real Sue Grafton? Many of her readers think she is simply a version of her character and alter ego Kinsey Millhone. Here are Kinsey's own words in the early pages of N Is for Noose:

"So there I was barreling down the highway in search of employment and not at all fussy about what kind of work I'd take. I wanted distraction. I wanted some money, escape, anything to keep my mind off the subject of Robert Deitz. I'm not good at good-byes. I've suffered way too many in my day and I don't like the sensation. On the other hand, I'm not that good at relationships. Get close to someone and the next thing you know, you've given them the power to wound, betray, irritate, abandon you, or bore you senseless. My general policy is to keep my distance, thus avoiding a lot of unruly emotion. In psychiatric circles, there are names for people like me."

Those are sentiments that hit home for Grafton's readers. And she has said that Kinsey is herself, only younger, smarter, and thinner. But are they an apt description of Kinsey's creator? Well, she's been married to Steve Humphrey for more than twenty years. She has three kids and two grandkids. She loves cats, gardens, and good cuisine—not quite the nature-hating, fast-food loving Millhone. So: readers and reviewers beware. Never assume the author is the character in the book. Sue, who has a home in Montecito, California ("Santa Theresa") and another in Louisville, the city in which she was born and raised, is only in her imagination Kinsey Millhone -- but what a splendid imagination it is.

Biography from author website

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    1. Hometown:
      Montecito, California and Louisville, Kentucky
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 24, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      Louisville, Kentucky
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, University of Louisville, 1961
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


I don't mean to bitch, but in the future I intend to hesitate before I do a favor for the friend of a friend. Never have I taken on such a load of grief. At the outset, it all seemed so innocent. I swear there's no way I could have guessed what was coming down. I came this close to death and, perhaps worse (for my fellow dental phobics), Within a hairbreadth of having my two front teeth knocked out. Currently I'm sporting a knot on my head that's the size of my fist. And all this for a job for which I didn't even get paid!

    The matter came to my attention through my landlord, Henry Pitts, whom everybody knows I've been half in love with for years. The fact that he's eighty-five (a mere fifty years my senior) has never seemed to alter the basic impact of his appeal. He's a sweetheart and he seldom asks me for anything, so how could I refuse? Especially when his request seemed so harmless on the face of it, without the faintest suggestion of the troubles to come. It was Thursday, November twenty-first, the week before Thanksgiving, and wedding festivities were just getting under way. Henry's older brother William was to marry my friend Rosie, who runs the tacky little tavern in my neighborhood. Rosie's restaurant was traditionally closed on Thanksgiving Day, and she was feeling smug that she and William could get hitched without her losing any business. With the ceremony and reception being held at the restaurant, she'd managed to eliminate the necessity for a church. She'd lined up a judge to perform the nuptials, and she apparently considered that his services were free. Henry had encouraged her to offer thejudge a modest honorarium, but she'd given him a blank look, pretending she didn't speak English that well. She's Hungarian by birth and has momentary lapses when it suits her purposes.

    She and William had been engaged for the better part of a year, and it was time to get on with the big event. I've never been certain of Rosie's actual age, but she has to be close to seventy. With William pushing eighty-eight, the phrase "until death do us part" was statistically more significant for them than for most.

    Before I delineate the nature of the business I took on, I suppose I should fill in a few quick personal facts. My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a licensed investigator, female, twice divorced, without children or any other pesky dependents. For six years I'd had an informal arrangement with California Fidelity Insurance, doing arson and wrongful death claims in exchange for office space. For almost a year now, since the termination of that agreement, I'd been leasing an office from Kingman and Ives, a firm of attorneys here in Santa Teresa. Because of the wedding I was taking a week off, looking forward to rest and recreation when I wasn't helping Henry with wedding preparations. Henry, long retired from his work as a commercial banker, was making the wedding cake and would also he catering the reception.

    There were eight of us in the wedding party. Rosie's sister, Klotilde, who was wheelchair bound, would he serving as the maid of honor. Henry was to he the best man, with his older brothers, Lewis and Charlie, serving as the ushers. The four of them - Henry, William, Lewis, and Charlie (also known collectively as "the boys" or "the kids")~ranged in age from Henry's eighty-five to Charlie's ninety-three. Their only sister, Nell, still vigorous at ninety-five, was one of two bridesmaids, the other being me. For the ceremony Rosie had elected to wear an off-white organza muumuu with a crown of baby's breath encircling her strangely dyed red hair. She'd found a bolt of lavish floral polished cotton on sale . . . pink and mauve cabbage roses on a background of bright green. The fabric had been shipped off to Flint, Michigan, where Nell had "run up matching muumuus for the three of us in attendance. I couldn't wait to try mine on. I was certain that, once assembled, the three of us would resemble nothing so much as a set of ambulatory bedroom drapes. At thirty-five, I'd actually hoped to serve as the oldest living flower girl on record, but Rosie had decided to dispense with the role. This was going to he the wedding of the decade, one I wouldn't miss for all the money in the world. Which brings us hack to the "precipitating events", as we refer to them in the crime trade.

    I ran into Henry at nine that Thursday morning as I was leaving my apartment I live in a converted single-car garage that's attached to Henry's house by means of an enclosed breezeway. I was heading to the supermarket, where I intended to stock up on junk food for the days ahead. When I opened my door, Henry was standing on my front step with a piece of scratch paper and a tape dispenser. Instead of his usual shorts, T-shirt. and flip-flops, he was wearing long pants and a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

    I said, ''Well, don't you look terrific.'' his hair is stark white and he wears it brushed softly to one side. Today it was slicked down with water, and I could still smell the warm citrus of his aftershave. His blue eyes seem ablaze in his lean, tanned face. He's tall and slender, good-natured, smart, his manner a perfect blend of courtliness and nonchalance. If he wasn't old enough to be my grand-daddy, I'd snap him up in a trice.

    Henry smiled when he saw me. "There you are. Perfect. I was just leaving you a note. I didn't think you were home or I'd have knocked on the door instead. I'm on my way to the airport to pick up Nell and the boys, but I have a favor to ask. Do you have a minute?"

    "Of course. I was on my way to the market, but that can wait", I said. "What's up?"

    "Do you remember old Mr. Lee? They called him Johnny here in the neighborhood. He's the gentleman who used to live around the corner on Bay. Little white stucco house with the overgrown yard. To be accurate, Johnny lived in the garage apartment. His grandson, Bucky, and his wife have been living in the house."

    The bungalow in question, which I passed in the course of my daily jog, was a run-down residence that looked as if it was buried in a field of wild grass. These were not classy folk, unless a car up on blocks is your notion of a yard ornament. Neighbors had complained for years, for all the good it did. "I know the house, but the name doesn't mean much."

    "You've probably seen 'em up at Rosie's. Bucky seems to be a nice kid, though his wife is odd. Her name is Babe. She's short and plump, doesn't make a lot of eye contact. Johnny always looked like he was homeless, but he did all right."

    I was beginning to remember the trio he described: old guy in a shabby jacket, the couple playing grab-ass, looking too young for marriage. I cupped a hand to my ear. "You've been using past tense. Is the old man dead?"

    "I'm afraid so. Poor fellow had a heart attack and died four or five months back. I think it was sometime in July. Not that there was anything odd about it," Henry hastened to add. 'He was only in his seventies, but his health had never been that good. At any rate, I ran into Bucky a little while ago and he has a problem he was asking me about. It's not urgent. It's just irksome and I thought maybe you could help."

    I pictured an unmarked key to a safe-deposit box, missing heirs, missing assets, an ambiguity in the will, one of those unresolved issues that the living inherit from the newly departed. "Sure. What's the deal?"

    "You want the long version or the short?"

    "Make it long, but talk fast. It may save me questions."

    I could see Henry warm to his subject with a quick glance at his watch. "I don't want to miss the flight, but here's the situation n a nutshell. The old guy didn't want a funeral. but he did ask to be cremated, which was done right away. Bucky was thinking about taking the ashes back to Columbus, Ohio, where his dad lives, but it occurred to him his grandfather was entitled to a military burial. I guess Johnny was a fighter pilot during World War Two, part of the American Volunteer Group under Claire Chennault. He didn't talk much about it, but now and then he'd reminisce about Burma, the air battles over Rangoon, stuff like that. Any way Bucky thought it'd be nicer: white marble with his name engraved, and that kind of thing. He talked to his dad about it, and Chester thought it sounded pretty good, so Bucky went out to the local Veterans Administration office and filled out a claim form. He didn't have all the information, but he did what he could. Three months went by and he didn't hear a thing. He was just getting antsy when the claim came back, marked "Cannot Identify." With a name like John Lee, that wasn't too surprising. Bucky called the VA and the guy sent him another form to complete, this one a request for military records. This time it was only three weeks and the damn thing came back with the same rubber stamp. Bucky isn't dumb, but he's probably all of twenty-three years old and doesn't have much experience with bureaucracy. He called his dad and told him what was going on. Chester got right on the horn, calling Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, which is where the Air Force keeps personnel files. I don't know how many people he must have talked to, but the upshot is the Air Force has no record of John Lee, or if they do, they won't talk. Chester is convinced he's being stonewalled, but what can he do? So that's where it stands. Bucky's frustrated and his dad's madder than a wet hen. They're absolutely determined to see Johnny get what he deserves. I told 'em you might have an idea about what to try next."

    "They're sure he was really in the service?"

    "As far as I know."

    I felt an expression of skepticism cross my face. "I can talk to Bucky if you want, but it's not really an area I know anything about. If I'm hearing you right, the Air Force isn't really saying that he wasn't there. All they're saying is they can't identify him from the information Bucky's sent."

    "Well, that's true," Henry said. "But until they locate his records, there isn't any way they can process the claim.

    I was already beginning to pick at the problem as if it were a knot in a piece of twine. "Wasn't it called the Army Air Force back in those days?"

    "What difference would that make?"

    "His service records could be kept somewhere else. Maybe the army has them."

    "You'd have to ask Bucky about that. I'm assuming he's already tried that line of pursuit."

    "It could be something simple . . . the wrong middle initial, or the wrong date of birth."

    "I said the same thing, but you know how it is. You look at something so long and you don't even really see it. It probably won't take more than fifteen or twenty minutes of your time, but I know they'd be glad to have the input. Chester's out here from Ohio, wrapping up some details on his father's probate. I didn't mean to volunteer your services, but it seems like a worthy cause.

    "Well, I'll do what I can. You want me to pop over there right now? I've got the time if you think Bucky's home."

    "He should be. At least he was an hour ago. I appreciate this, Kinsey. It's not like Johnny was a close friend, but he's been in the neighborhood as long as I have and I'd like to see him treated right."

    "I'll give it a try, but this is not my bailiwick."

     "I understand, and if it turns out to be a pain, you can dump the whole thing."

    I shrugged. "I guess that's one of the advantages in not being paid. You can quit any time you want."

    "Absolutely," he said.

    I locked my front door while Henry headed toward the garage, and then I waited by the drive while he backed the car out. On special occasions he drives a five-window coupe, a 1932 Chevrolet with the original bright yellow paint. Today, he was taking the station wagon to the airport since he'd be returning with three passengers and countless pieces of luggage. "The sibs," as he called them, would be in town for two weeks and tended to pack for every conceivable emergency. He eased to a stop and rolled down the window. "Don't forget you're joining us for dinner."

    "I didn't forget. This is Lewis's birthday right? I even bought him a present."

    "Well, you're sweet, but you didn't have to do that."

    "Oh, right. Lewis always tells people not to buy a present, but if you don't, he pouts. What time's the celebration?"

    "Rosie's coming over at five forty-five. You can come anytime you want. You know William. If we don't eat promptly, he gets hypoglycemic."

    "He's not going with you to the airport?"

    "He's being fitted for his tux. Lewis, Charlie, and I get fitted for ours this afternoon."

    "Very fancy," I said. "I'll see you later."

    I waved as Henry disappeared down the street and then let myself out the gate. The walk to the Lees' took approximately thirty seconds-six doors down, turn the corner, and there it was. The style of the house was hard to classify, a vintage California cottage with a flaking stucco exterior and a faded red-tile roof. A two-car garage with dilapidated wooden doors was visible at the end of the narrow concrete drive. The scruffy backyard was now the home of a half-dismantled Ford Fairlane with a rusted-out frame. The facade of the house was barely visible, hidden behind unruly clusters of shoulder-high grass. The front walk had been obscured by two mounds of what looked like wild oats, bushy tops tilting toward each other across the path. I had to hold my arms aloft, wading through the weeds, just to reach the porch.

    I rang the bell and then spent an idle moment picking burrs from my socks. I pictured microscopic pollens swarming down my gullet like a cloud of gnats, and I could feel a primitive sneeze forming at the base of my brain. I tried to think about something else. Without even entering the front door, I could have predicted small rooms with rough stucco arches between, offset perhaps by ineffectual attempts to "modernize" the place. This was going to be pointless, but I rang the bell again anyway.

    The door was opened moments later by a kid I recognized. Bucky was in his early twenties. He was three or four inches taller than I am, which would have put him at five nine or five ten. He wasn't overweight, but he was as doughy as a beer pretzel. His hair was red gold, parted crookedly in the center and worn long. Most of it was pulled back and secured in some scraggly fashion at the nape of his neck. He was blue eyed, his ruddy complexion looking blotchy under a four-day growth of auburn beard. He wore blue jeans and a dark blue long-sleeved corduroy shirt with the tail hanging out. Hard to guess what he did for a living, if anything. He might have been a rock star with a six-figure bank account, but I doubted it.

    "Are you Bucky?"

    "Ye

    I held my hand out. "I'm Kinsey Millhone. I'm a friend of Henry Pitts. He says you're having problems with a VA claim."

    He shook my hand, but the way he was looking at me made me want to knock on his head and ask if anyone was home. I plowed on. "He thought maybe I could help. Mind if I come in?"

    "Oh, sorry. I got it now. You're the private detective. At first, I thought you were someone from the VA. What's your name again?"

    "Kinsey Millhone. Henry's tenant. You've probably seen me up at Rosie's. I'm there three or four nights a week."

    Recognition finally flickered. "You're the one sits in that back booth."

    "I'm the one.

    "Sure. I remember. Come on in." He stepped back and I moved into a small entrance hall with a hardwood floor that hadn't been huffed for years. I caught a glimpse of the kitchen at the rear of the house. "My dad's not home right now, and I think Babe's in the shower. I should let her know you're here. Hey Babe!"

    No reply.

    He tilted his head, listening. 'Hey Babe"

    I've never been a big fan of yelling from room to room. "You want to find her? I can wait."

    "Let me do that. I'll be right back. Have a seat," he said. He moved down the hall, his hard-soled shoes clumping. He opened a door on the right and stuck his head in. There was a muffled shriek of pipes in the wall, the plumbing shuddering and thumping as the shower was turned off.

    I went down a step into the living room, which was slightly bigger than the nine-by-twelve rug. At one end of the room there was a shallow brick fireplace, painted white, with a wooden mantelpiece that seemed to be littered with knickknacks. On either side of the fireplace there were built-in bookcases piled high with papers and magazines. I settled gingerly on a lumpy couch covered with a brown-and-yellow afghan. I could smell house mold or wet dog. The coffee table was littered with empty fast-food containers, and all the seating was angled to face an ancient television set in an oversize console.

    Bucky returned. "She says go ahead. We gotta be somewhere shortly and she's just now getting dressed. My dad'll be back in a little while. He went down to Perdido to look at lighting fixtures. We're trying to get Pappy's apartment fixed up to rent." He paused in the doorway, apparently seeing the room as I did. "Looks like a dump, but Pappy was real tight with a buck."

    "How long have you lived here?"

    "Coming up on two years, ever since Babe and me got married," he said. "I thought the old bird'd give us a break on the rent, but he made a science out of being cheap."

    Being cheap myself, I was naturally curious. Maybe I could pick up some pointers, I thought. "Like what?"

    Bucky's mouth pulled down. "I don't know. He didn't like to pay for trash pickup, so he'd go out early on trash days and put his garbage in the neighbors' cans. And, you know, like somebody told him once when you pay utility bills? All you have to do is use a one-cent stamp, leave off the return address, and drop it in a remote mailbox. The post office will deliver it because the city wants their money, so you can save on postage."

    I said, "Hey, what a deal. What do you figure, ten bucks a year? That'd be hard to resist. He must have been quite a character."

    "You never met him?"

    "I used to see him up at Rosie's, but I don't think we ever met."

    Bucky nodded at the fireplace. "That's him over there. One on the right."

    I followed his gaze, expecting to see a photograph sitting on the mantelpiece. All I saw were three urns and a medium-stze metal box. Bucky said, "That green marble urn is my grammaw, and right beside her is my uncle Duane. He's my daddy's only brother, killed when he's a kid. He was eight, I think. Playing on the tracks and got run over by a train. My aunt Maple's in the black urn."

    For the life of me, I couldn't think of a polite response. The family fortunes must have dwindled as the years went by because it looked like less and less money had been spent with each successive death until the last one, John Lee, had been left in the box provided by the crematorium. The mantel was getting crowded. Whoever "went" next would have to be transported in a shoe box and dumped out the car window on the way home from the mortuary.

    He waved the subject aside. "Anyway, forget that. I know you didn't stop by to make small talk. I got the paperwork right here." He moved over to the bookshelf and began to sort through the magazines, which were apparently interspersed with unpaid bills and other critical documents. "All we're talking is a three-hundred-dollar claim for Pappy's burial," he remarked. "Babe and me paid to have him cremated and we'd like to get reimbursed. I guess the government pays another hundred and fifty for interment. It doesn't sound like much, but we don't have a lot to spare. I don't know what Henry told you, but we can't afford to pay for your services,"

    "I gathered as much. I don't think there's much I can do anyway. At this point, you probably know more about VA claims than I do."

    He pulled out a sheaf of papers and glanced through them briefly before he passed them over to me. I removed the paper clip and scrutinized the copy of John Lee's death certificate, the mortuary release, his birth certificate, Social Security card, and copies of the two Veterans Administration forms. The first form was the application for burial benefits, the second a request for military records. On the latter, the branch of service had been filled in, but the service number, grade, rank, and the dates the old man had served were all missing. No wonder the VA was having trouble verifying the claim. "Looks like you're missing a lot of information. I take it you don't know his serial number or the unit he served in?"

    "Well, no. That's the basic problem," he said, reading over my shoulder. "It gets stupid. We can't get the records because we don't have enough information, but if we had the information we wouldn't need to make the request."

    "That's called good government. Think of all the money they're saving on the unpaid claims."

    "We don't want anything he's not entitled to, but what's fair is fair. Pappy served his country, and it doesn't seem like such a lot to ask. Three hundred damn dollars. The government wastes billions."

    I flipped the form over and read the instructions on the back. Under "Eligibility for Basic Burial Allowance," requirements indicated that the deceased veteran must have been "discharged or released from service under conditions other than dishonorable and must have been in receipt of pension or had an original or reopened claim for pension," blah, blab, blah. "Well, here's a possibility. Was he receiving a military pension?"

    "If he did, he never told us."

    I looked up at Bucky. "What was he living on?"

    "He had his Social Security checks, and I guess Dad pitched in. Babe and me paid rent for this place, which was six hundred bucks a month. He owned the property free and clear, so I guess he used the rent money to pay food, utilities, property taxes, and like that."

    "And he lived out back?"

    "That's right. Above the garage. It's just a couple little rooms, but it's real nice. We got a guy who wants to move in once the place is ready. Old friend of Pappy's. He says he'd be willing to haul out the junk if we give him a little break on the first month's rent. Most stuff is trash, but we didn't want to toss stuff until we know what's important. Right now half Pappy's things have been packed in cardboard boxes and the rest is piled up every which way.

    I reread the request for military records. "What about the year his discharge certificate was issued? There's a blank here."

    "Let's see." He tilted his head, reading the box where I was holding my thumb. "Oh. I must have forgot to mark that. Dad says it would've been August seventeenth of 1944 because he remembers Pappy coming home in time for his birthday party the day he turned four. He was gone two years, so he must have left sometime in 1942."

    "Could he have been dishonorably discharged;~ From what this says, he'd be disqualified if that were the case."

    "No ma'am," Bucky said emphatically.

    "Just asking." I flipped the form over. scanning the small print on the back. The request for military records showed various address lists for custodians for each branch of the service, definitions, abbreviations, codes, and dates. I tried another tack. What about medical? If he was a wartime veteran. he was probably eligible for free medical care. Maybe the local VA clinic has a file number for him somewhere.."

    Bucky shook his head again. "I tried that. They checked and didn't find one. Dad doesn't think he ever applied for medical benefits."

    "What'd he do when he got sick"

    "He mostly doctored himself."

    "Well. I'm about out of ideas," I said. I returned the papers to him. "What about his personal effects? Did he keep any letters from his Air Force days? Even an old photograph might help you figure out what fighter group he was

    "We didn't find anything like that so far. I never even thought about pitchers. You want to take a look?"

    I hesitated, trying to disguise my lack of interest. "Sure, I could do that, but frankly, if it's just a matter of three hundred dollars, you might be better off letting the whole thing drop."

    "Actually, it's four hundred and fifty dollars with internment," he said.

    "Even so. Do a cost/benefit analysis and "You'd probably find you're already in the hole."

    Bucky was nonresponsive, apparently unpersuaded by my faint hearted counsel. The suggestion may have been intended more for me than for him. As it turned out, I should have taken my own advice. Instead I found myself dutifully trotting after Bucky as he moved through the house. What a dunce. I'm talking about me, not him.

BEING BRETT


By DOUGLAS HOBBIE

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1996 Douglas Hobbie. All rights reserved.
TAILER

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not bad

    This wasn't too bad. It was kind of slow in the beginning, but it got better. I still wish the endings were a little more detailed.

    Kinsey's skills are about to be sorely tested. She is about to meet her duplicitous match in a couple of world-class prevaricators who quite literally take her for the ride of her life.

    "L" Is for Lawless: Call it Kinsey Millhone in bad company. Call it a mystery without a murder, a treasure hunt without a map, a quest novel with truly mixed-up motives. Call it the return of Kinsey as bad girl-- quick-witted and quicksilvery, smart-mouthed and smart-alecky-- poking her nose into everyone's dirty laundry as she joins up with a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in an Our Gang comedy that will take her halfway across the country and leave her with a major headache and an empty bank balance.

    America's favorite borderline delinquent is back with her one-liners on tap and her energy level on high, romping through her fastest and funniest adventure in this, her twelfth foray into the alphabet of crime.

    "A" Is for Alibi
    "B" Is for Burglar
    "C" Is for Corpse
    "D" Is for Deadbeat
    "E" Is for Evidence
    "F" Is for Fugitive
    "G" Is for Gumshoe
    "H" Is for Homicide
    "I" Is for Innocent
    "J" Is for Judgment
    "K" Is for Killer
    "L" is for Lawless
    "M" Is for Malice
    "N" Is for Noose
    "O" Is for Outlaw

    Kinsey Millhone's latest is her most spellbinding mystery yet--and her biggest book to date! When Kinsey agrees to do a favor for her elderly landlord, she finds herself on the trail of a decades-old crime.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Diehard-Sue Grafton Fan

    Loved it, but was mad at the end about how Kinsey was wronged!!! thats all I'm going to say, I don't want to give anything away.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    L is for Lawless

    This was yet another great read from Sue Grafton. Kinsey was exploring being apart of a family for some of the book. Short on money and short on help from her employer she trys to find out the mystery of her employers father's past. The only problem is he is not even sure what they are looking for. She is in for a surprise when she makes friends with an ex con and his daughter. Surprises are throughout and you never know where she is going next... and honestly neither does she.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2012

    Like tthe book

    Always like Sue Grafton books and this one did not disappoint.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2012

    enjoy the series

    just another good read by Sue Grafton. I enjoy the Kinsey Miilhone series. Do not have to read them in alphabetical order

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2011

    Boring - an absolute waste of time.

    This one is a real page turner. I kept turning the page to avoid falling asleep. I have enjoyed this series up until now. L to me means Last One!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2006

    Enjoyable

    The plot and characters were interesting. There were some dull parts but for the most part enjoyable reading. I've read some of the other books in this series and this was one of the best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2002

    Wonderful Story, Her Best

    I have read several from her series, I started with L and none have been able to match it. The story is a bit different than the rest and definately a page turner. If you only read one of Ms. Grafton's books make it this one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2013

    Hdbebc

    Nlcnqbfiwn

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2013

    Hi

    I s it true?<_>

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    As good as the first

    Staying power still a good read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2011

    Not bad....not good

    Most of her books are better. This one is about a 5 out of 10..

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2011

    disapointed

    I WAS DISAPPOINTED IN THE ENDING.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2006

    Good mystery about career criminals

    It can be a great mistake to do a favor for a friend of a friend, as Kinsey Millhone learns the hard way. As a favor to her landlord, the good-hearted Henry Pitts, Kinsey agrees to help the family of John Lee get a proper veteran's funeral. Lee, after all, served his country heroically as a Flying Tiger, fighting the Japanese in Burma on the eve of World War II. Yet, strangely, the Air Force cannot verify his service. Kinsey agrees to help find out what the problem is, and discovers that she has taken on much more than she bargained for... 'L' is for Lawless is full of good writing, interesting observations about life, and interesting descriptions of real facets of our existence (locks and safes in this case). It contains a really excellent portrayal of what it is like to become involved with career criminals, habitual liars, and habitually violent men. It contains good portrayals of family bickering, of mutual disdain in families, and of thoroughly aggravating stupidity. It also contains some ingenious ideas on the art of hiding money, even over decades, and some interesting pointers on the art of being cheap. In my opinion, the main flaw of the novel lies in the dialog. Kinsey slips into easy conversation about personal matters with people whom she dislikes and distrusts and who return her feelings--something that people seldom really do. In the same vein, dialog about ordinary matters occurs at moments of great stress, such as the aftermath of a shooting, where it seems inconsistent with the characters' likely moods and preoccupations. At the end, a hardened criminal explains his misdeeds to people that he is about to kill. All of this comes across as clumsy attempts to feed the reader information. All in all, however, 'L' is for Lawless is a captivating yarn, always interesting, never tedious. I recommend it highly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2001

    'L' is for Lucky Kinsey!!!

    Kinsey is lucky to get out alive in this one, but if she did not, don't guess there would be an 'M'. I have read all the series through 'L'. Each one sems to get a little better if that is possible. The characters are good in this one and Grafton describes them so well you can see them in you mind. No need for me to describe the story as you can read that above. I liked the part when Kinsey pretended to be a hotel maid. I was afraid she would get caught. Did she???? I also liked the granny with the shotgun and ball bat. A real good read, not a heavy, scary mystery but one you can relate to and easy to read. I would really recommend 'L'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    She's doing it again

    Year by year Sue Graftoin gives us an exciting, mystery thriller in the life of PI Kinsey Milhone. Almost half way through the alphabet one wonders what Ms Grafton has in store for us in 2012. This is a novel of mix-ups though the assignment seems straightforward. Kinsey agrees to check out why a family friend, now deceased, has no military record when he claimed to be a fighter pilot during WWII. Despite trecking around the country with only the clothes she stand up in Kinsey still retains her sharp sense of humour.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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