In R is for Ricochet, by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhouse, a private investigator hailing from Santa Theresa, California, is hired by wealthy Nord Lafferty to escort his daughter, Reba, home from jail. Kinsey is to take a few days to help her shop, see her parole officer and acclimate to life on the outside. Though she is supposed to keep out of trouble, Reba reconnects with Beck, a former employer who had her imprisoned for embezzlement, who is now wanted by the FBI for money laundering. How much Reba knew and at one point is anyone’s guess, and Kinsey finds herself in the thick of things when Cheney, a police officer on whom Kinsey is crushing, asks her to get Reba to help with the government’s case.
This was my first Sue Grafton novel and in some ways, R is a good place to come into the series. It is a slower novel, with a lot of time is devoted to exploring the sleepy town in which Kinsey lives, as well as her work habits, romantic life and relationships with her neighbors. I was expecting more of a traditional mystery, and readers looking for the same might be surprised with the structure of this offering. This book is less about solving a crime that has been committed, that information is known right away, than it is about the curious friendship that develops between Kinsey and Reba, the particulars involved in bringing a criminal to justice, and whether the binding ties of a relationship will be betrayed in the pursuit of justice. There is some suspense and action but it is heavily featured in the latter part of the book.
In most of R is for Ricochet, Kinsey is contemplative about her past relationships but still ready to embark on new ones, and in the unfolding of Reba’s complicated history with Beck and possible complicity in his crimes (all in the name of love) Kinsey considers what it means to have a friend, who she is when she’s in love, how easily love can be a destructive force as well as a good one. She tries to counsel not only Reba but her friend Henry in matters of the heart. Readers are deeply immersed in Kinsey’s world – her nervous cleaning habit, half-hearted morning runs, love for atrociously salt enhanced fast food and the time she spends at Rosie’s with her friends Henry, William and Rosie. Grafton’s novel is simply written and sometimes overly detailed but the characterizations are strong and I felt as if I knew Kinsey well enough to be frustrated by some of her motivations and efforts and curious as the outcomes of the situations in which she found herself embroiled. R is for Ricochet put me in the mind of the old-fashioned hard-boiled crime novel, and was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.