Welcome to the third stop on Sue Grafton’s Blog Tour. In order to celebrate the forthcoming November 14th release of V is for Vengeance, ten bloggers are reviewing the five most recent entries in the Kinsey Millhone series to refresh your memory and help you hit the ground running. There’s also information about a great contest from Penguin as well as an excerpt from V is for Vengeance below today’s review.
In the passing drama of life, I’m usually the heroine, but occasionally I’m simply a minor character in someone else’s play. – Kinsey Millhone
The 18th entry in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, R is for Ricochet, finds Santa Teresa, California-based private investigator Kinsey Millhone summoned to the mansion of multi-millionaire Nord Lafferty to discuss a job offer. Lafferty’s daughter, Reba, is set to be paroled from prison after serving nearly two years for embezzlement and Lafferty wants Kinsey to pick Reba up and keep an eye on her “until she’s reestablished herself.”
Sounds easy enough, a glorified babysitting job really, right? Wrong.
Things get complicated quickly when Reba meets up with real estate developer Alan “Beck” Beckwith, her former lover and employer – the same one she embezzled from. Turns out Beck is being investigated for money-laundering by numerous law enforcement agencies, a fact that is brought to Kinsey’s attention by Lieutenant Cheney Phillips, Santa Teresa’s local liaison to the federal investigation.
The Feds want Reba to help them nail Beck, and as incentive to get her to do so they provide Kinsey with photos to show Reba of Beck two-timing her with her best friend…who also happens to hold Reba’s old job. Sufficiently incensed, Reba agrees to help take Beck down. Unfortunately, Reba has her own ideas about the best way to do that, leaving Kinsey scrambling to keep up as things spiral out of control.
R is for Ricochet is an interesting entry in the series in that romance and relationships are explored a little deeper than in previous outings. Never one to hang out with girlfriends shopping and gossiping, much to her surprise Kinsey finds herself slowly being draw into an unlikely friendship with Reba. So much so that things which normally never register on Kinsey’s radar – shopping for new clothes, getting a haircut (from someone other than herself) – find themselves front and center.
Of course, Kinsey’s newfound interest in her appearance is driven in no small part by the reappearance of the newly single Cheney Phillips, for whom Kinsey has had an on-again, off-again attraction in past entries in the series. There’s also a meaty subplot involving Kinsey’s charming octogenarian landlord, Henry, who finds himself in an unlikely love triangle with his older brother, Lewis, and a lady they met on a cruise. Love is definitely in the air in Santa Teresa.
As is plenty of action, fear not. Breaking and entering, kidnapping, an international drug kingpin, and murder all find their way onto the menu before all is said and done. Grafton has also done her usual bang-up job at researching the crime du jour. Along with Kinsey, by the end of R is for Ricochet you’ll know more about money-laundering than you would have thought possible, as well as have an entirely different understanding of what smurfing means. (Hint: Even though the alphabet series takes place in the 1980’s, smurfing in this context has nothing to do with little blue cartoon characters.)
As she does in all entries, Grafton smoothly sets up the relevant background information from the series early in the book. Having said that, R is for Ricochet is actually one of the more standalone books in the series, so if you’re late to the party this is as good a place to jump in as any.
R is for Ricochet is available from Berkley (ISBN: 978-0425241219).
– Win Books Q through U and V is for Vengeance –
As part of the celebration of the impending release of V is for Vengeance Penguin is giving away three sets of books Q, R, S, T, U (paperback), as well as a copy of V is for Vengeance to three different people. To be entered to win just leave a comment on all ten blogs involved in Sue Grafton’s Blog Tour (US/Canada only, sorry). You can comment (below the excerpt) about whatever you’d like, but if you find it intriguing feel free to answer this question: At one point in R is for Ricochet Kinsey bypasses a McDonald’s and eats “at a rival fast-food place.” Where do you think she ate, and what did she order?
In addition to that great contest, each blogger on the tour is also featuring a sneak peek of V is for Vengeance on their website to whet your appetite. The blogs which hosted Q is for Quarry previously posted the FIRST and SECOND sneak peeks at V is for Vengeance, and here’s the continuation of your teaser…
– V is for Vengeance: Excerpt #3 –
He took a break, leaving his chips on the table while he went up to his room. Once there, he took a piss, washed his hands and face, and picked up the rest of his stake, which he then turned into chips when he returned to the poker room.
After six additional hours of play, there was serious money on the table—maybe ﬁfteen grand. He hadn’t seen the blonde leave the table for so much as a bathroom break or a breath of fresh air. Her betting was aggressive and unpredictable. He didn’t like her at all and her recklessness was getting on his nerves.
The next hand, he was dealt pocket aces. The ﬂop came down: 2 of diamonds, then the 10 of diamonds, and the ace of clubs. He and the blonde were suddenly engaged again, upping each other’s bets. The turn was the queen of diamonds. The river was the 2 of spades, which put a pair on the board. He ﬁgured the woman had pocket kings or queens. If she held a king and a jack or two diamonds, she’d be looking at a straight or a flush.
He had a full house, aces full of 2’s, and that hand would beat either. He locked eyes with the blonde. More than anything in the world, he wanted to grind her face into the felt. She was blufﬁng again. He knew she was. He was right back at the same place he’d been six hours before, only this time his hand was strong.
He sat there trying to anticipate what she held. Any way he looked at it, he was in the superior position. He studied the cards on the table, imagining every possible combination, given what he could see and the pocket aces he knew he had. She was blufﬁng. She had to be. He raised—nothing dramatic because he didn’t want her backing away. She hesitated and then matched his bet and raised him another two hundred. He was going to make a mistake. He could feel it in his bones. But which way would his error lie? Would he fold as he had before and let her take a pot like that with a piss-poor hand? Or would he push her to the wall? Was he underestimating her hand? He didn’t see how he could be, but he’d lost touch with his intuition. He couldn’t reason. His mind was empty. When he was on a roll he could see the cards. It was like having X-ray vision. The odds would dance in his head like sugarplum fairies and he’d feel the magic at work. Now all he could take in was the green felt and the harsh lights and the cards, which lay there inert and whispered nothing to him. If he picked up this pot he was home free. He could picture it, his holding to etiquette and not reaching for the pot at ﬁrst even though it was his. The dealer would push the chips in his direction. He wouldn’t even look at the blonde, because who cared about her? This was his moment. Doubt had obscured his initial ﬂeeting instincts. He couldn’t remember what his gut had been telling him. Time seemed to stretch. She was waiting, and the dealer waited, and the other players measured his chances in the same way he did. If he won the pot, he’d quit. He made a promise to himself. He’d get up, collect his winnings, and walk out a free man. She was a woman who bluffed. She’d gotten him once and if she was a killer, she’d do it again. What were the chances of the two of them going head-to-head like this and her blufﬁng a second time? How much nerve did she have? How calculating was she? She wouldn’t do that, would she? He had to make a decision. He felt like he was standing on a ten-meter board, teetering on the brink, trying to work up the courage to go ﬂying off the edge. Fuck it, he thought, and he went all in. He was not going to let the bitch get the best of him.
He turned over his pocket cards, watching every player at the table put the hand together: pocket aces, plus an ace of clubs and the pair of 2’s on the table, giving him his full house. The look she turned on him was odd. He didn’t understand until he caught sight of the cards she’d fanned out in front of her. There was a collective intake of breath. She was holding pocket 2’s. Adding those to the 2’s on the table gave her four of a kind. He stared with disbelief. Pocket deuces? Nobody pushed pre-ﬂop with a pair like that. She had to be insane. But there they sat, four 2’s . . . four sharp arrows in his heart.
The dealer said nothing. He pushed the blonde’s winnings forward and she gathered them in. Phillip was in shock, so convinced the hand was his that he couldn’t absorb the fact of her four of a kind. What kind of lunatic held on to pocket 2’s and pushed all the way to the end? His mouth was dry and his hands had started to shake. The gaze she ﬁxed on him was nearly sexual, soft with satisfaction. She’d played him and just as he thought he’d gotten off, she pulled the rug out from under him again. He got up abruptly and left the table. Of his original ten grand, he had four hundred dollars in chips.
V is for Vengeance is available from Marian Wood Book/Putnam (ISBN: 978-0399157868).
Be sure to visit the next stop on the Sue Grafton Blog Tour, Linus’s Blanket, on Thursday, October 6th for another review of R is for Ricochet as well as the next excerpt from V is for Vengeance.