Tuesday, May 1, 2012

M is for Murder, My Love

I’m in love.  He’s tall, dark and handsome; he’s even rich and with a name like Dante, you know he’s hot.   Too bad he’s also a gangster, especially since he and his organization, and I use that term loosely, are in the crosshairs of the tenacious private detective Kinsey Millhone.   

I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s novels but V is for Vengeance is one I’ve enjoyed the most.  Here, Kinsey has unwittingly stumbled into a large retail shoplifting operation while doing her least favorite thing, shopping.  Being her usual self, she’s like a dog with a bone.  Once Kinsey gets her teeth into a case, she doesn’t let go, even if her client asks her to, and trouble always follows. 

The book has some of its usual characters along with a few blasts from the past, though it is the satellite characters, Nora and Dante, I like best.  Nora is the bored wife of a wealthy and powerful lawyer, who is currently cheating on her; Dante is a loan shark and head of the family business.  As I watched them circle each other, I just knew an affair between them would have challenges.  Yet, I found I was cheering for them, even though I knew it was against the odds. 

Dante reminded me of how I felt about John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction; yes, he was a killer but I did feel a little sad when he was killed.  Dante is a much different character yet I still really hoped he would make it through alive and well.  How does it work out?  For that, you'll need to read the book. 

It does have me wondering what Sue Grafton will do once she publishes the last book in the alphabet.  I’ve read all of them, beginning with A is for Alibi.  What will happen to Kinsey in the end?  I guess we’ll have to stay tuned. 

Since I couldn’t warm myself with Dante, I decided to warm myself with another series, a cozy set in Quebec by Louise Penny.  It is here that I found another who captivated my heart. 

Unlike the gorgeous Dante, Armand Gamache is a happily married, middle-aged man with a little extra weight and warm trusting eyes.  He’s also the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec police force in Montreal.  Gamache has the uncanny ability to make sense out of murders that have none.  His theory is that it made sense to the murderer and once he figures it out, it will indeed be logical to the rest of us.  Part of his charm is his low key trusting manner.  People talk to him and end up sharing way more than was their intention. 

Of course, there’s one or two who don’t like him and with an old case still haunting him, he may be just a little too trusting.  

Three Pines has a problem, people keep getting murdered.  This brings Gamache and his team into their midst.  In the first of the series, Still Life, it is the nicest person in town who is murdered, which makes it challenging to find out why someone felt inclined to kill her.  In the next, A Fatal Grace, it’s the nastiest person in town, and this time, it’s a challenge to find someone who didn't want her dead.   

Three Pines has its own assortment of eccentric characters.  There is the very sweet Clara, a gifted but insecure artist, married to Peter, a more successful one.  Clara has the gift to see what others don’t, and more importantly, to see the best in people.  While I do admire that in her and would love to say I did as well, given that I am a bit of a cynic, you know I can't say so with a straight face.    

That brings me to the character at the other end of the spectrum, the very irascible Ruth Zardo, an old, contentious, rude woman who doesn’t care to see the good in anyone.  Nevertheless, our scotch drinking old lady is a poet; one that Gamache admires.  Her words are quite gloomy:

Who hurt you once so far beyond repair
That you would greet each overture with curling lip?
It was not always so. 

Don’t you just love it?  It’s so, bleak, so melancholy.  Or am I just showing my dark side?  

There are plenty of other interesting characters to be found in this quaint little village and each one adds a little color and depth to the picture.  It is with their help that Gamache ferrets out the mystery and solves the crime. 

Small quaint village, charming eccentric people, a good detective with something haunting him; these are essential ingredients to any good cozy mystery.  Still, with enough murders to make it a series, how cozy can this village really be?  On that cheery note,  I'll leave you with another Ruth Zardo poem, from A Fatal Grace:

When my death us do part
Then shall forgiven and forgiving meet again,
Or will it be, as always was, too late?

Perhaps I should have stuck with Dante...


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