P Is for Peril by Sue Grafton
When Dowan Purcell, a respected physician who operates a nursing home, disappears, his ex-wife hires Santa Teresa PI Kinsey Millhone to look into it. Fiona Purcell is still seething over Dow's affair and subsequent marriage to Crystal, a former stripper, yet they're still friends, and she seems worried. But when his body is discovered, she's among the suspects. Both of Dow's wives, at least one of his business partners, and perhaps even Crystal's teenage daughter had motives to kill.
While in her most recent adventures (N Is for Noose, Hardcover edition.
Kinsey Millhone never sees it coming. She is mired in the case of a doctor who disappeared, his angry ex-wife, and beautiful current one–a case that is full of unfinished business, unfinished homes, and people drifting in and out of their own lives. Then Kinsey gets a shock. A man she finds attractive is hiding a fatal secret–and now a whole lot of beauty, money, and lies are proving to be a fatal distraction from what Kinsey should have seen all along: a killer standing right before her eyes. . . .
Art Deco, October 25, 2003
Mary E. Sibley
from Carneys Point, NJ USA
Dr. Purcell has been missing for nine weeks. Kinsey Millhone had followed the disappearance in the newspapers and then his former wife sought her services. He was the director of a care facility. The client collects art deco. Sue Grafton's character is an effective protoganist. She represents good in the war waged in genre fiction of good against evil. She is refreshing, not rule bound, considerate of others, her elderly neighbors for example, and seeks to cut through the noisy insincerities of social intercourse to reach the truth. She is a sort of Western star, a loner, she explains, in female garb. Her roughness is meant to be endering and one has to admit that Grafton is successful. Kinsey Millhone is looking for a new office. Kinsey discovers the nursing home was under investigation when Dow Purcell disappeared. The investigation was being conducted by HCFA on medicare billing. An associate wondered if the missing man could handle the loss of face in the event of prosecution. Dow may have been a good practitioner and an incompetent adminstrator. A former employee certainly held such a view of the situation. In the midst of the investigation into his disappearance, which at least from a reader's perspective finally seems to be going somewhere, Kinsey learns of questionable conduct on the part of her prospective landlords. She does not know if she is inclined to use her investigative skills to discover their crimes to help an insurance company, but at a minimum decides to back out of the rental. She continues to have a contentious relationship with her client and feels that spending time on the case in order to justify the retainer accepted is a form of indentured servitude. Kinsey locates the dead man's car in water. The most interesting parts of the story are the medicare fraud strand. The villians portrayed are pretty convincing. Peril is a good word for the position of the characters in this yarn. Under the circumstances Kinsey Millhone would be a good person to know. The book is a nice job of writing.