This 17th novel in the Kinsey Millhone series is the most satisfying yet — in character, mystery, and the ongoing family story, not a mis-fire anywhere. I honestly am not sure what to say beyond that.
But let me try…
Kinsey was her typical self — a little uncertain of some personal choices, proudly defiant in them though she may be; has some good moments with Henry and the other regulars. We got to spend a lot of time with Lt. Con Nolan, and his mentor (a new character) Detective Stacey Oliphant in this investigation. I’ve always liked Nolan, and just about every time Grafton deals with another cop, I’ve wanted it to be Nolan. Oliphant was fun to get to know, and I hope she teams up with them again (maybe not in “R”, but maybe by “T”).
Okay, then we got a healthy dose of the whole long-lost family thing that’s been going on for a few books. I’m about fed up with the bickering with Kinsey and the cousins. But she meets another family member this time, and has a great conversation with her. I’ve always understood the anger that informs her interaction with the family, but she doesn’t seem to do anything with the naval-gazing it brings up. This time, there’s a touch of anger, but she moves on to something else — really appreciated that.
Okay, the mystery itself was just great. I mean really great. Watching the pieces come together, like a satisfying puzzle…perfect. On the one hand, it was just a well-written Millhone mystery. But it seemed more, it seemed (frequently) like the case was more complex than usual. There’s a mental “click” I get when clues start coming together and you can start to see what happened — and this is horribly subjective, and hard to explain, but — the “click”s this time felt more like a Harry Bosch novel than a Kinsey Millhone. Maybe it was the cold case-nature of this one. And I’m not trying to knock Grafton saying her best book (so far) is more like someone else than herself. Yeah, I think Michael Connelly crafts a better mystery, that’s not saying Grafton can’t.
To top it all off, there’s the Author’s Note at the end that tells us that this was based on an actual unsolved case, and that Grafton hoped the book and the pictures of the facial reconstruction of the actual victim in the back of the book (funded by Grafton), would help turn up new leads in the investigation. Icing on a really good cake. For details, see, “Who Was Jane Doe? True Life Subject of Sue Grafton’s Q Is for Quarry Still a Mystery” by Barney Brantingham.