H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8)

H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8)

by Sue Grafton


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250029645
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/16/2013
Series: Kinsey Millhone Series , #8
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 844,486
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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 18 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.

She is currently at work on the next alphabet mystery, U IS FOR…


Montecito, California and Louisville, Kentucky

Date of Birth:

April 24, 1940

Place of Birth:

Louisville, Kentucky


B.A. in English, University of Louisville, 1961

Read an 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?”


“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.

What People are Saying About This

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

Customer Reviews

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H Is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone Series #8) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 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.
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend this series. Fast paced and entertaining. Another great story by one of my favorite authors. Recommend you read this series starting with A is for Alibi and working your way through the alphabet.
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.
ThePolyBlog 26 days ago
BOTTOM-LINE: H should be for huckster. . PLOT OR PREMISE: Kinsey has her hands full with a dead claims adjuster, a scam artist on the run from a dangerous ex, and an efficiency expert at the insurance company. . WHAT I LIKED: Kinsey goes undercover with the scam artist and her ex, with support from Dolan, and she really throws herself into the role. She shows up as the scam artist's friend, and hangs out while the relationship with the crazy ex deteriorates even further. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The crazy ex is indeed crazy, but the ridiculous explanation for a lot of his behaviour is that he has Tourette's. Not exactly a deep plot device nor very accurate portrayal. . 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.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Great read,
bookworm12 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
After Kinsey's most recent case comes to a close, she heads back home and finds out that a friend has been murdered. A short time later she begins investigating an insurance scam and finds out that the two cases are connected. Soon she finds herself working undercover in the home of Raymond Maldonado, after befriending his ex-girlfriend Bibianna Diaz. As with all of Grafton's mysteries, the strength is in the details and in Kinsey's cleverness. In H Grafton introduces us to a man with Tourette syndrome, a bi-polar pit bull and a grade school chum of Kinsey's, among others. It¿s a fun addition to the series, though her situation never seemed as dire as it does in some of the other books. I did think it was funny that Grafton used her H is Homicide letter on a novel that had very little to do with homicide. I is for Insurance Fraud maybe?"Violence is a form of theater that only the disenfranchised can afford."
simplywriting on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Recently went through and began reading them all again. Currently on this one, but have read them all.
miyurose on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I have to give this one a thumbs up. I think it was actually one of the better books in the series. Really sucked me in towards the end! I like a book that I have a hard time putting down.
sumariotter on LibraryThing 10 months ago
these are all fun reads--perfect beach, train, or waiting room reads. But this one kicks it up a notch. addictively readable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heard about this series for years. Finally started reading them a few months ago. Such a delight!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read but some parts were too long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of twists and turns. Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
“H” is for Half Good I knew that even longtime fans of the Kinsey Milhone series admit there are some sub-par books in the series, and I wasn’t sure when that started. In my opinion, “H” is for Homicide is that first disappointing book in the series. This book opens with a shocking murder. Over the last couple of months, PI Kinsey Milhone has gotten to know Parnell Perkins, a new employee at California Fidelity, the insurance company where she has office space. They usually got out for drinks after work two or three times a week. So, Kinsey is shocked when she swings by the office after several days out of town to learn he’s been shot in the parking lot. The trail seems to have grown cold, too, and soon the case disappears from the headlines. Kinsey herself is soon distracted by a new case. California Fidelity has asked her to look into a claim filed by Bibianna Diaz. Something seems off about the claim, and Kinsey quickly agrees. Her strategy is to get close to the woman and find out what is really happening. But how will Kinsey handle the curve balls of this case? Before I go further, I have a rant. When you are doing alphabet mysteries, homicide is an obvious choice for “H”, so the title doesn’t surprise me. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t you expect the actual homicide to be a main focus of the book? It isn’t. Instead, we focus on insurance fraud, which is a great case, but could have easily been the plot for the next book in the series, “I”. Setting that rant aside, the book starts out well as Kinsey gets close to Bibianna in hopes of proving the obvious. There were some good twists that made her life much more complicated. And then the book got bogged down in the second half. We get a different story than the book promised by the beginning, too. It really does feel like author Sue Grafton had done a lot of research into insurance fraud and wanted to share that with us. I was chomping at the bit to get another twist or more action, but then when we reached the climax, it was over all too quickly. The series is not known for series regular characters, which holds true here. Kinsey is pretty much on her own for most of this book. She’s a strong character, and she is surrounded by a crop of strong new characters, so I didn’t feel this was a problem at all. In fact, the characters were so strong that we certainly did care about the outcome even though we’d never met any of them before. Once again, I listened to the audio version narrated by Mary Pfeiffer. She is absolutely wonderful at infusing Kinsey’s narration with life and making the story fun to listen to. I highly recommend these audio versions if you are looking for something new. The end of this book does change things for Kinsey, so fans will want to read it to find out what that is, although it is dropped on us almost in passing. I wish this book held up to the promise of the first half because I was really enjoying that. As it is, “H” is for Homicide is a book fans will need to read, but it’s not a good place for those new to the series to start.
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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