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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Sue Grafton continues her inexorable march through the alphabet with the 15th Kinsey Millhone mystery, P Is for Peril. Like its predecessors, Grafton's latest is both an elegant entertainment and a first-rate private-eye novel that honors and extends the tradition from which it springs.
The story begins when Kinsey, against her better judgment, accepts an assignment from crusty interior designer Fiona Purcell. Fiona's ex-husband, prominent Santa Theresa physician Dowan Purcell, has been missing for several weeks. Chief administrator for a nursing home called Pacific Meadows, Purcell left work at the usual time one Friday night and has not been heard from since. Local police have made little or no progress in tracing him, and Kinsey finds herself following in their footsteps, futilely attempting to make sense of an elusive, increasingly remote event.
Kinsey's investigation takes her beneath the placid surface of a respected doctor's life, revealing an unexpectedly problematic underside. The Dowan Purcell who gradually emerges is a secret drinker with a propensity for kinky sex. His second marriage -- to former stripper Crystal Muscoe -- has a carefully concealed dark side that manifests itself in the rebellious behavior of his troubled teenage stepdaughter, Leila. Purcell's professional life proves equally problematic: Pacific Meadows is currently being investigated for numerous counts of Medicare fraud. Picking her way slowly through this lethal combination of elements, Kinsey searches, with typical persistence, for the key to Dowan Purcell's disappearance.
Supplementing this central plot line is a secondary story that has perilous implications of its own. While conducting a search for affordable new office space, Kinsey stumbles across a rental opportunity that proves too good to be true, placing her in dangerously close proximity to a pair of fraternal landlords with undisclosed secrets of their own. Cutting effortlessly back and forth between these interconnected narratives, Grafton gives us yet another irresistible novel. Her bright, energetic prose, her precise eye for character and landscape, and her virtually flawless sense of pace come cleanly together once again, reaffirming Grafton's position as one of the most engaging, consistently reliable suspense novelists working in America today. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).