FOLKS: Auntie M will be attending the Cape Fear Crime Festival and will return to this spot on Feb. 12th with a great new review for you!

Reading Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series is like working your way through a box of Godiva chocolates: you get more and more excited tasting the different flavors and don’t want the box to end. That sums up Auntie M’s feelings after reading her newest, V is for Vengeance.

The talented Grafton just keeps getting better and better. The Wall Street Journal notes: “Millhone’s complexity is mirrored by the novels that document her cases: books that nestle comfortably within the mystery genre even as they prod and push its contours.”

This time the licensed private detective is shopping for underwear when she’s a witness to a woman shoplifting in Nordstrom’s lingerie department. Discreetly enlisting the nearest clerk, the woman is caught by security but not before Kinsey witnesses her companion changing clothes in the ladies room. Said accomplice manages to get away after trying to run Kinsey down in the parking lot. But no, this still doesn’t explain why Kinsey is nursing a broken nose and two black eyes on her thirty-eighth birthday, one hell of a way to remember the day.

The lead up to that broken nose takes us through the details of Kinsey’s latest case, starting with the shoplifter, who has apparently jumped off a bridge in remorse–for shoplifting a lace teddy and two pairs of silk pajamas? When the woman’s fiance’ shows up at Kinsey’s office and begs her to look into the jumper’s death, Kinsey becomes involved in a web of dangerous and toxic relationships that will affect her and those around her in surprising and sometimes deathly ways.

As her investigation grows, so does this web in which Kinsey finds herself entangled, leading her to a ruthless and unfaithful businessman, a woman on the verge of leaving her husband, a young man with a bad gambling habit, and a brutal gangster. Throw in a mob-related professional shoplifting ring, and a dirty, ruthless cop, and you have an idea of what Kinsey’s week has just become. If you thought shoplifting was a minor, irritating crime, you’re in for an eye-opener. This is big business on a world-wide level; and at the heart of this ring is a charming, powerful businessman whose work might be outside the law but whose moral code is above that of the cop who becomes a thorn in Kinsey’s side.

Here’s Kinsey’s telling us about herself in a way that affects the fulfilling ending of the novel: “For the record, I’d like to say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even.”

Grafton fans will admire this latest installment, as she’s managed to take her novel a notch higher. Not only do we have Kinsey’s voice and first-person point of view, but we have the added viewpoints of several of the other major players in the story, which adds multiple layers to this very satisfying novel. Then there is the matter of what must be exhaustive research on Grafton’s end into the areas she’s dealing with. The ending couldn’t have been handled better, and that black eye turns out to be a saving grace.

This is a writer at the height of her talent, with a comfortable relationship with her main character that forms the solid foundation of her books. By “V,” Grafton is widening her reach, and we are the fortunate recipients. Auntie M’s only hope is that with only four more letters in the alphabet, Sue Grafton will consider starting all over from A.

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