Elaine Boldt is missing, and her sister wants Kinsey Millhone to find her.
Seems like a routine job. Boldt was last seen lavishly draped in a $12,000 lynx coat heading for Boca Raton. She never got there. But someone else had, and was camping out illegally in Mrs. Boldt's abode. Now, things were beginning to seem a bit less routine - particularly when Kinsey is ordered to drop the investigation just as she discovers that days before Elaine Boldt "bolted", her next-door neighbor and bridge partner had been murdered. Unfortunately, the killer is still at large . . . and looking for Kinsey!
About the Author
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
Read an Excerpt
B is for Burglar
A Kinsey Millhone Mystery
By Sue Grafton
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1985 Sue Grafton
All rights reserved.
I'd been in the office no more than twenty minutes that morning. I'd opened the French doors out onto the second-floor balcony to let in some fresh air and I'd put on the coffee pot. It was June in Santa Teresa, which means chill morning fog and hazy afternoons. It wasn't nine o'clock yet. I was just sorting through the mail from the day before when I heard a tap at the door and a woman breezed in.
"Oh good. You're here," she said. "You must be Kinsey Millhone. I'm Beverly Danziger."
We shook hands and she promptly sat down and started rooting through her bag. She found a pack of filter-tipped cigarettes and shook one out.
"I hope you don't mind if I smoke," she said, lighting up without waiting for a response. She inhaled and then extinguished the match with a mouthful of smoke, idly searching about for an ashtray. I took one from the top of my file cabinet, dusted it off, and passed it over to her, offering her coffee at the same time.
"Oh sure, why not?" she said with a laugh, "I'm already hyper this morning so I might as well. I just drove up from Los Angeles, right through the rush-hour traffic. Gawd!"
I poured her a mug of coffee, doing a quick visual survey. She was in her late thirties by my guess; petite, energetic, well groomed. Her hair was a glossy black and quite straight. The cut was angular and perfectly layered so that it framed her small face like a bathing cap. She had bright blue eyes, black lashes, a clear complexion with just a hint of blusher high on each cheekbone. She wore a boat-necked sweater in a pale blue cotton knit, and a pale blue poplin skirt. The bag she carried was quality leather, soft and supple, with a number of zippered compartments containing God knows what. Her nails were long and tapered, painted a rosy pink and she wore a wedding ring studded with rubies. She projected self-confidence and a certain careless attention to style, conservatively packaged like the complimentary gift wrap in a classy department store.
She shook her head to the offer of cream and sugar so I added half-and-half to my own mug and got down to business.
"What can I help you with?"
"I'm hoping you can locate my sister for me," she said.
She was searching through her handbag again. She took out her address book, a rosewood pen-and-pencil set, and a long white envelope, which she placed on the edge of my desk. I'd never seen anyone so self-absorbed, but it wasn't unattractive stuff. She gave me a quick smile then, as though she knew that. She opened the address book and turned it so that it faced me, pointing to one of the entries with a rosy fingertip.
"You'll want to make a note of the address and telephone number," she said. "Her name is Elaine Boldt. She has a condo on Via Madrina and that second one is her address in Florida. She spends several months a year down in Boca."
I was feeling somewhat puzzled, but I noted the addresses while she took a legal-looking document out of the long white envelope. She studied it briefly, as though the contents might have changed since she'd last seen it.
"How long has she been missing?" I asked.
Beverly Danziger gave me an uncomfortable look. "Well, I don't know if she's 'missing' exactly. I just don't know where she is and I've got to get these papers signed. I know it sounds dumb. She's only entitled to a ninth interest and it probably won't come to more than two or three thousand dollars, but the money can't be distributed until we have her notarized signature. Here, you can see for yourself."
I took the document and read through the contents. It had been drawn up by a firm of attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, and it was full of whereases, adjudgeds, ordereds, and whatnots, which added up to the fact that a man named Sidney Rowan had died and the various people listed were entitled to portions of his estate. Beverly Danziger was the third party listed, with a Los Angeles address, and Elaine Boldt was fourth, with an address here in Santa Teresa.
"Sidney Rowan was some kind of cousin," she went on garrulously. "I don't believe I ever met the man, but I got this notice and I assume Elaine got one too. I signed the form and got it notarized and sent off and then didn't think any more about it. You can see from the cover letter that this all took place six months ago. Then, lo and behold I got a call last week from the attorney ... what's his name again?"
I glanced at the document. "Wender," I said.
"Oh, that's right. I don't know why I keep blocking that. Anyway, Mr. Wender's office called to say they'd never heard from Elaine. Naturally, I assumed she'd gone off to Florida as usual and just hadn't bothered to have her mail sent, so I got in touch with the manager of her condominium here. She hasn't heard from Elaine in months. Well, she did at first, but not recently."
"Have you tried calling the Florida number?"
"From what I understand, the attorney tried several times. Apparently, she had a friend staying with her and Mr. Wender left his name and number, but Elaine never called back. Tillie had about the same luck."
"The woman who manages the building here where Elaine has her permanent residence. Tillie's been forwarding the mail and she says Elaine usually drops her a little note every other week or so, but she hasn't heard anything since March. Frankly, it's a nuisance more than anything else, but I don't have time to track her down myself." Beverly took a final drag of the cigarette and stubbed it out with a series of pecking motions.
I was still taking notes, but I suppose the skepticism was showing in my face.
"What's the matter? Isn't this the sort of work you do?"
"Sure, but I charge thirty dollars an hour, plus expenses. If there's only two or three thousand dollars involved, I wonder if it's going to be worth it to you."
"Oh, I fully intend to have the estate reimburse me out of Elaine's share since she caused all this trouble to begin with. I mean, everything's come to a screeching halt until her signature can be obtained. I must say it's typical of the way she's behaved all her life."
"Suppose I end up flying down to Florida to look for her? Even if I only charge you half my usual hourly rate for travel time, it'll cost a fortune. Look, Mrs. Danziger—"
"All right, Beverly. I don't want to discourage your business, but in all honesty it sounds like something you could handle yourself. I'd even be happy to suggest some ways to go about it."
Beverly gave me a smile then, but it had a hard edge to it and I realized, at long last, that she was used to getting her way. Her eyes had widened to a china glaze, as blue and unyielding as glass. The black lashes blinked mechanically.
"Elaine and I are not on the best of terms," she said smoothly. "I feel I've already devoted quite enough time to this, but I promised Mr. Wender I'd find her so the estate can be settled. He's under pressure from the other heirs and he's putting pressure on me. I can give you an advance if you like."
She was back in her bag again, coming up with a checkbook this time. She uncapped the rosewood pen and stared at me.
"Will seven hundred and fifty dollars suffice?"
I reached into my bottom drawer. "I'll draw up a contract."
I walked the check over to the bank and then I retrieved my car from the lot behind the office and drove over to Elaine Boldt's address on Via Madrina. It wasn't far from the down-town area.
I figured this was a routine matter I could settle in a day or two and I was thinking with regret that I'd probably end up refunding half the money I'd just deposited. Not that I was doing much else anyway—things were slow.
The neighborhood Elaine Boldt lived in was composed of modest 1930s bungalows mixed with occasional apartment complexes. So far, the little frame and stucco cottages were predominant but the properties were being converted to commercial use one by one. Chiropractors were moving in, and cut-rate dentists who were willing to give you twilight sleep so you could have your teeth cleaned without cringing. ONE-DAY DENTURES—CREDIT. It was worrisome. What did they do to you if you missed a payment on your upper plate? The area was still largely intact—old-age pensioners stubbornly propping up their hydrangea bushes—but real-estate syndicates would eventually mow them all down. There's a lot of money in Santa Teresa and much of it is devoted to maintaining a certain "look" to the town. There are no flashing neon signs, no slums, no fume-spewing manufacturing complexes to blight the landscape. Everything is stucco, red tile roofs, bougainvillea, distressed beams, adobe brick walls, arched windows, palm trees, balconies, ferns, fountains, paseos, and flowers in bloom. Historical restorations abound. It's all oddly unsettling—so lush and refined that it ruins you for anyplace else.
When I reached Mrs. Boldt's address, I parked my car out front and locked it, taking a few minutes then to survey the premises. The condominium was a curiosity. The building itself was shaped like a horseshoe with broad arms opening onto the street; three stories high, parking level underneath, a strange combination of modern and mock-Spanish. There were arches and balconies along the front, with tall wrought-iron gates sweeping inward to a palm-planted courtyard, but the sides and back of the building were flat and unadorned, as though the architect had applied a Mediterranean veneer to a plain plywood box, adding a lip of red tile at the top to suggest an entire roof when there was none. Even the palms looked like cardboard cutouts, propped up with sticks.
I passed through the courtyard and found myself in a glass-enclosed lobby with a row of mailboxes and door buzzers on the right. On my left, through another set of glass doors, apparently kept locked, I could see a set of elevator doors and an exit leading to a set of fire stairs. Huge potted plants had been artfully arranged throughout the entranceway. Straight ahead, a door led out into a patio where I caught sight of a pool surrounded by bright yellow canvas deck chairs. I checked the tenants' names, which were punched out on strips of plastic tape and pasted alongside each apartment buzzer. There were twenty-four units. The manager, Tillie Ahlberg, occupied apartment 1. An "E. Boldt" was listed at apartment 9, which I guessed was on the second floor.
"I gave "E. Boldt" a buzz first. For all I knew, she'd answer on the intercom and then my job would be done. Stranger things had happened and I didn't want to make a fool of myself looking high and low for a lady who might well by now be at home. There was no response so I tried Tillie Ahlberg.
After ten seconds, her voice crackled into the intercom as though the sound were being transmitted from outer space.
I placed my mouth near the box, raising my voice slightly.
"Mrs. Ahlberg, my name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a private detective here in town. Elaine Boldt's sister asked me to see if I could locate her and I wondered if I might talk to you."
There was a moment of white noise and then a reluctant reply.
"Well, I suppose. I was on my way out, but I guess ten minutes won't hurt. I'm on the ground floor. Come through the door to the right of the elevator and it's down at the end of the hall to the left." The buzzer sounded and I pushed through the glass doors.
Tillie Ahlberg had left her front door ajar while she collected a lightweight jacket, her purse, and a collapsible shopping cart that rested against the hall table. I tapped on the doorframe and she appeared from my left. I caught a glimpse of a refrigerator and a portion of kitchen counter.
Tillie Ahlberg was probably in her sixties, with apricot-tinted hair in a permanent wave that looked as if it had just been done. The curl must have been a little frizzier than she liked because she was pulling on a crocheted cotton cap. An unruly fringe of apricot hair was still peeking out, like Ronald McDonald's, and she was in the process of tucking it away. Her eyes were hazel and there was a powdery patina of pale ginger freckles on her face. She wore a shapeless skirt, hose, and running shoes, and she looked like she was capable of covering ground when she wanted to.
"I hope I didn't seem unsociable," she said comfortably. "But if I don't get to the market first thing in the morning, I lose heart."
"It shouldn't take long anyway," I said. "Can you tell me when you last heard from Mrs. Boldt? Is she Miss or Mrs.?"
"Mrs. She's a widow, though she's only forty-three years old. She was married to a man who had a string of manufacturing plants down south. As I understand it, he dropped dead of a heart attack three years ago and left her a bundle. That's when she bought this place. Here, have a seat if you like."
Tillie moved off to the right, leading the way into a living room furnished with antique reproductions. A gauzy golden light came through the pale yellow sheers and I could still smell the remnants of breakfast: bacon and coffee and something laced with cinnamon.
Having established that she was in a hurry, she seemed ready to give me as much time as I wanted. She sat down on an ottoman and I took a wooden rocking chair.
"I understand she's usually in Florida this time of year," I said.
"Well, yes. She's got another condominium down there. In Boca Raton, wherever that is. Near Fort Lauderdale, I guess. I've never been to Florida myself, so these towns are all just names to me. Anyhow, she usually goes down around the first of February and comes back to California late July or early August. She likes the heat, she says."
"And you forward mail to her while she's gone?"
Tillie nodded. "I do that about once a week in batches, depending on how much has accumulated. Then she sends me back a note every couple of weeks. A postcard, you know, just to say hi and how the weather is and if she needs someone let in to clean the drapes or something of that nature. This year she wrote me through the first of March and since then I haven't heard a word. Now, that's not like her a bit."
"Do you still have the postcards by any chance?"
"No, I just threw 'em out like I always do. I'm not much for collecting things like that. There's too much paper piling up in the world if you ask me. I read 'em and tossed 'em and never thought a thing of it."
"She didn't mention taking a side trip or anything like that?"
"Not a word. Of course, it's none of my business in the first place."
"Did she seem distressed?"
Tillie smiled ruefully. "Well, it's hard to seem upset on the message side of a postcard, you know. There isn't but that much room. She sounded fine to me."
"Do you have any guesses about where she might be?"
"Not a one. All I know is it's not like her not to write. I tried calling four or five times. Once some woman friend of hers answered but she was real abrupt and after that, there wasn't anything at all."
"Who was the friend? Anyone you knew?"
"No, but now I don't know who she knows in Boca. It could have been anyone. I didn't make a note of the name and wouldn't know it if you said it to me right this minute."
"What about the mail she's been getting? Are her bills still coming in?"
She shrugged at that. "It looks that way to me. I haven't paid much attention. I just shipped on whatever came in. I do have a few I was about to forward if you'd like to see them." She got up and crossed to an oak secretary, opening one of the glass doors by turning the key in the lock. She took out a short stack of envelopes and sorted through them, then handed them to me. "This is the kind of thing she usually gets."
I did the same quick sorting job. Visa, MasterCard, Saks Fifth Avenue. A furrier named Jacques with an address in Boca Raton. A bill from a John Pickett, D.D.S., Inc., right around the corner on Arbol. No personal letters at all.
"Does she pay utility bills from here too?" I asked.
"I already sent those this month."
"Could she have been arrested?"
That sparked a laugh. "Oh no. Not her. She wasn't anything like that. She didn't drive a car, you know, but she wasn't the type to get so much as a jaywalking ticket."
"Accident? Illness? Drink? Drugs?" I felt like a doctor interviewing a patient for an annual physical.
Tillie's expression was skeptical. "She could be in the hospital I suppose, but surely she would have let us know. I find it very peculiar to tell you the truth. If that sister of hers hadn't come along, I might have gotten in touch with the police myself. There's just something not right."
Excerpted from B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton. Copyright © 1985 Sue Grafton. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoy the way Sue Grafton writes. She keeps the books moving without over burdening you with a lot of fluff just to fill in the pages. I would recommend this book for young adults, adults or for someone who wants to get into reading mysteries. As indicted, reading the books in order is good idea since the basics carry from one book to the other, but it isn't necessary. The writing is such, you can pick up what the main character is, without such in depth detail you are unable to find out what makes Kinsey Millhone who she is and how she got into the PI business.
I liked this book. It was my second book by Sue Grafton. can't wait to read the next.
This is a good sequel to the A book that takes place two weeks after the first one ended, so abruptly. Kinsey is still sorting out the consequences of the first book. This book does not disappoint. Kinsey is drawn into a missing person mystery that, yes, includes a burglary. Again, this book takes place in a time where answering machines were still on tape, a trip on an airplane was hassle-free, and people still smoked indoors. I like that there are still no cellphones to fall back on and Kinsey has to use her brains. Kinsey proves she doesn't need to have a man to fall back on when she tells herself that a potential boyfriend needs to go through a few more girlfriends before she'll go out with him. I did kind of figure out the murderer by chapter 17, but not how they did it. Then Grafton throws out some stuff that made me doubt my first answer. Good writing.
If you enjoyed A is for Alibi, you definitely want to continue reading this series. While each book is a new mystery, they pick up where the last one left off as far as the day to day aspect of life for the main and recurring characters. Sue Grafton always puts lots of twists and turns into her stories so that you are kept guessing who-done-it. Love this series.
I am new to Sue Grafton's work and I am a new fan. I am through D, so have a way to go, although I am reading one to two a week. Easy reading and so far I am pleased at the lack of graphic violence and language.
B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton is a spell binding missing persons/murder mystery set up so perfectly that I didn't even see the ending coming. I was so sure it was a burglar...like the title says. Completely floored me. I love reading these private investigator books written in the times before technology. No cell phones, no internet, no google. Kinsey gets her first answering machine in this one. Too much fun. And so much more personal. Kinsey's analytic mind must make all the connections on her own. Loved it!
What I like is her character description, she becomes very real. I am only thru A,B so far there is definitely twists & turns. The book is interesting enough & they haven't been drawn out too long.
Great book. Love Kinsey.
Fun read leaves you looking forward to the next
I enjoyed 'A' is for Alibi more, but this one was still good. I did figure it out pretty early on but that was probably a fluke. I'll try the next one.
BOTTOM-LINE: Stealing someone's identity is one thing, living their life is another . PLOT OR PREMISE: A sister hires Kinsey to find her estranged sister who seems to have gone missing . WHAT I LIKED: The plot is interesting, as it starts to shape up as quite the mystery. The missing sister, Elaine, supposedly flew to Florida but someone else is staying in her condo there. Everybody has opinions, but no facts as to her whereabouts. And there's a link to a burglary / homicide that occurred before she disappeared. Stolen identities, missing cats, firecracker old ladies, multiple clients and Jonah too? . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: A good portion of the novel is kind of muddy, with Kinsey blundering along, showing no real signs of any insight or deduction, just plodding along, with the mystery having to go at her pace too. None of the "drama" from the secondary characters tends to add any real intensity to the story, and many of the people just come off as lame. . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.
This is the second book in the Kinsey Millhone, aka Alphabet Mystery, series.Kinsey Millhone, Private Investigator, is hired by a woman to find her sister, who appears to have gone missing, in order to settle a relative¿s estate.When I started this book, I forgot it was written back in 1985 when parachute pants and Mohawks were in style and people didn¿t email and use the internet or cell phones! How archaic to have to use the typewriter instead of the computer ;) I have forgotten how different everything was back then!Kinsey is a very likeable protagonist: she¿s a bit of a loner, quirky, self-reliant, and tough.Grafton¿s books are a fast read for me, and I enjoy them.I also like Mary Peiffer's narration of these books. She did the first one as well.MY RATING: 3.5 stars!
Grafton hits the target again with this quick read. The plot is rather involved and the characters are complicated and have quirks like the rest of us. Grafton always manages to make her characters realistic, in both dialogue and personality. These books are not for the "cozy" mystery enthusiast though, Grafton knows how to "whack" her victims and the fight at the end of this book is intense, painful and violent. I will read the next book in line, curious now to see how the author develops throughout the writing of each new book.
I'm not reading these in order and have already read almost all of them. Was pleasantly surprised at how good this one is. The plot was very clever and had me guessing and engaged all the way to the end. I enjoy all the descriptive details which fill this series.
A very compelling tale of missing persons, burglary, murder and investigation. Grafton's heroine is genuine, flawed, courageous, and relatable. This series is a must-read!
Marginally better than A.
Kinsey is an interesting young woman...I enjoy her internal conversation and observations about her life. I also enjoyed the mystery, the "whodunit" was a surprise that I didn't really believe, but then again, these aren't very realistic stories are they? Enjoyable, easy to follow, relaxing... good casual reading.
A missing person and an arson's fire are related.
An absorbing mystery. Suspenseful. Kept my attention. Not my favorite mystery series. I prefer 'cozy' mysteries so it is a tiny bit gory for my taste, but still very interesting.
I like detective novels and these are well written. I prefer the humor though of Evanovich as to the more serious tone of Grafton. I am just starting this series so I will have to see how far I continue into it.
This is still the best Kinsey Millhone story, although 'H', 'M', and 'Q' are also quite good. 'B' is for Burglar is a mystery blessed with a terrific plot and excellent major and minor characters. It has received numerous awards, and deservedly so. You don't need to read 'A' is for alibi first, but it helps a bit.
I've read another of Sue Grafton's novels, and just like the previous one, this did nothing for me. Between the plot, the characterization, the writing style, there's nothing about it that stands out as being anything above mediocre. In this novel, Kinsey goes looking for an eccentric wealthy woman. This leads her to Florida and a woman posing as the missing woman. The red herrings were weak. The villain was not very believable and the story was a bit dull. This isn't worth the read.Carl Alves - author of Two For Eternity
Another great Kinsey Milhone adventure!
I've never read a Sue Grafton mystery because the titles are so silly. But, a friend recommended her so I thought I'd try one. It's a short, fun read. Not very complex in either story or characterization but it was written in the 80's. I'll try a few more...
In B is for Burglar, Kinsey Millhone is back and in search of a missing woman. At first the case seems to be a simple matter that can be solved within a couple of days, but as Kinsey begins to dig it becomes apparent that everything isn't what it seems. And the more that Kinsey searches for the missing Elaine, the more questions arise as everything begins to not add up. Can Kinsey figure out what has happened to Elaine before she finds herself in danger??I am hooked on this series! Sue Grafton has created such a likeable, realistic female protagonist in Kinsey. She is an absolute delight to read about. What I really liked about this book is that Kinsey is still dealing with everything that happened in the previous book. I can't go into details without revealing spoilers but suffice it to say that it made the series that much better in my opinion. And it made Kinsey that much more awesome as a main character. The mystery in this book was page turning. I was constantly guessing and trying to figure out what had really happened to Elaine. And let me tell you that I didn't see the ending coming whatsoever. After finishing the book though, I realized that there were a few questions left open. I'm wondering if maybe the answers will be in the third book or if the author will just leave it the way it ended. I'm interested to see for myself and can't wait to snatch up the 3rd book!All in all, this was a really great read and also really helped to cement my enjoyment of this series. I can't wait to see what kind of troubles Kinsey will get herself into next. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a good mystery series!