when you're cranking out as many of these babies as you are, it's difficult to keep from being formulaic. i get that. i've watched patricia cornwell
and janet evanovitch
succumb to it, and even kathy reichs
, who is probably my favorite author in this genre, writes a stinker every now and then. but you have to make a choice: are you a) going to stay consistent in your quest for originality, or are you b) going to break all the rules you've set in previous novels?
if you chose b) ...you're wrong!
i can't put my finger on where this book went wrong. as with many of these novels, it deals with insurance fraud. however, there's no murder. instead, we're confronted with a rather stereotypical latina named bibianna who, when she's not working as a house-cleaner (facepalm), or slutting it up at the local club, she sweetens the deal with a bit of insurance fraud.
are there references to cholos? yes. bad 'hablas espanol?' jokes? yes. do the villains eat bean cheese burritos and chili? oh, yes. pots-full. do they have a pitbull with a spanish name? yup. a trashy car? yup. are the main antagonists a bunch of mexican gangbangers?
okay, so h is for homicide
is not very politico-correcto. is kinsey millhone her usual kick-ass self? uh...no. actually, maybe it's just me, but i got the feeling that she was majorly out of character in this book. i mean, usually she bends the rules but this time she broke a ton of them, and it was like she underwent a personality change every time she changed clothes. i really had to suspend my disbelief because she'd never done anything like that before.
the scenery descriptions were fantastic, though. i loved the way grafton described the club:
the meat locker looked like it had been designed originally for industrial purposes and converted to commercial use without much concession to aesthetics. the room was cavernous and drab, with a concrete floor and metal beams showing high up in the shadowy reaches of the ceiling. a nineteen-foot bar ran along the wall to the right, packed three deep with guys whose faces looked like they belonged on the post office wall" (59).
and the way she described the romance between bibianna and jimmy:
(oh my god, jimmy was so hot. if she had made him more of a focal character, there probably would have been more of this:
and less of this:
they seemed suited for one another, a crooked cop and a con artist...both willing to cut corners, both manipulating the system, looking for a fast buck. neither was malicious but they must have recognized the lawlessness in each other's natures. i wondered what had drawn them together in the first place, whether they had sensed the shared bonds of mutiny and trespass. the similarities certainly weren't apparent on the surface, but i suspect lovers have some unerring instinct for the qualities that both attract and condemn them in relationships (83).
beautiful, right? the problem is that grafton can't shut it off. she describes cars, food, buildings, and herself in the same amount of detail. the result is that meaningful passages are swallowed up in a sea of purple prose. she puts so much effort in trying to make kinsey insightful that she actually comes across as incredibly contrived and self-absorbed. half the time, her stream of conscious/verbal diarrhea of the brain makes me want to throttle her. the other half, i'm flipping to the back of the book to see how many pages are left before it's all over.
here's another example:
there's this quote i really liked:
the problem with real life is there's no musical score. in movies, you know you're in danger because there's an ominous chord underlining the scene, a dissonant melodice line that warns of sharks in the water and boogermen [sic] behind the door. real life is dead quiet, so you're never quite sure if there's trouble coming up (151).
and then, literally, right below it, grafton gets busy describing yet another scene in a paragraph that spans two pages
. here's an excerpt:
there were five [men], all hispanics in their late teens or early twenties, all wearing heavy wool pendleton shirts buttoned up to their chins. three were sitting around the kitchen table, one with his girlfriend on his lap. a second girl sat with her bare legs outstretched, tight skirt hiked up to midthigh. she was smoking a cigarette, practicing smoke rings through pouty lips painted bright red. two guys lounging against the wall came to attention as raymond came in the door. on the wall was a large handmade sign with 'r.i.p.' at the top and chago's names in caps below, a pair of praying hands and a crucifix drawn in the space between (151).
are any of these men important? no. are their girlfriends? no. are any of the objects mentioned in the narrative going to be used as props or plot devices later on? no.the entire book is like this, folks
, and this is what drives me out of my mind about the kinsey millhone series. sue grafton knows how to write a decent mystery. she knows how to keep you guessing until the last minute. she knows how to strategically plant clues that won't make you suspect a deus ex machina when she finally unveils the culprit at the end...
but instead of describing what i'd actually like to know more about, like kinsey's (ahem) intimate relationships and the history thereof (two sentence summaries don't cut it) and forensic medical science, or even about the criminals' dastardly schemes, she fills up the pages with pointless descriptions of people, places, and things - like we're playing a bloody game of twenty questions.
*shaking my head*
i'm hoping that this is just a brief slump, and not the marked decline of the series as a whole. :/