The 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).
Another Sue Grafton alphabet mystery featuring heroine P.I. Kinsey Millhone. The ex-wife of a prominent physician retains Kinsey to find out what has happened to her mussing, onetime mate. Medicare fraud, hidden agendas galore, intriguingly flawed characters and more than a whiff of violence make this mystery a fast-paced summer read. Grafton fans will see this, the 16th in the series, as proof positive that she is getting stronger as a writer and that “P” stand for her most Perfect Production Yet. (17 Sep 2001)
In her 15th alphabetical mystery, Grafton deserves an A for maintaining her series's high standard of excellence. This time private investigator Kinsey Milhone is hired by Dr. Fiona Purcell to find her ex-husband, Dowan, a prominent physician who vanished with his passport and $30,000 in cash nine weeks earlier. Wondering what she can do that the Santa Rosa police haven't done already, Kinsey takes the case and quickly discovers that the nursing home Purcell administered is being investigated for Medicare fraud. Was Purcell involved or did the facility's owners have something to do with his disappearance? And what about his second wife, ex-stripper Crystal, who Fiona believes is having an affair with her personal trainer? At the same time, Kinsey's losing streak with men continues as she is pursued romantically by her new office landlord's brother. Unfortunately for Kinsey, her new Mr. Right and his sibling are suspects in the murder of their parents. As usual, Grafton mixes an intriguing plot, well-developed characters, and humor into an entertaining summer read. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00; a Literary Guild main selection.] Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Nine weeks after Dr. Dowan Purcell left the Pacific Meadows medical facility he administered, then vanished along with his passport and $30,000, his ex-wife Fiona, disgusted alike at the Santa Teresa Police Department's lack of progress on the case and the lackadaisical attitude of Dow's current wife, ex-stripper Crystal, calls in Kinsey Millhone. What can Kinsey do that the cops haven't or can't? She can rattle the cages at Crystal's place-where her messed-up teenaged daughter Leila and her personal trainer Clint Augustine take turns creating opportunities for gossip-and at Pacific Meadowswhere an investigation for Medicare fraud has blown some employees away and left the rest paranoid. Faced with the need to investigate not only Dow's big, quarrelsome family but Meadows moneymen Joel Glazer and Harvey Broadus, what's a shamus to do? Spend some quality time getting just a little too close to her new landlord's twin brother, of course, providing the heat behind Grafton's title while extending Kinsey's string of relationships with unsuitable men. After the narrow focus of Kinsey's last few alphabetical adventures, the generous canvas here is a joy, and if the wealth of characters and subplots prevents Grafton from keeping any of them in the frame for very long, the audaciously foreshortened denouement shows her heroine at her most beguiling. After twenty years updating the private-eye tradition, Grafton shows she can spin a classic yarn with all the breadth of her masters, and a sharper eye for detail than any of them.
“P IS FOR PERIL CRACKLES WITH SUSPENSE AND POPS WITH SURPRISES.”
“GRAFTON COOKS UP SCENARIOS THAT GET YOUR WHEELS TURNING . . . SHE’LL SEE TO IT THAT YOU’RE UP HALF THE NIGHT READING TO THE END.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“SHARP-EYED AND SHARP-TONGUED [KINSEY MILLHONE] IS AS CAPABLE AND ACERBIC AS EVER.”
–The Wall Street Journal