P is for Peril by Sue Grafton comes rather late in the author’s alphabet series. Her detective Kinsey Milhone is well established by now, almost as comfortable a figure as Hercule Poirot, though much more hard-boiled. I can’t say that there is anything new in P is for Peril. Kinsey seems much like she’s always been, single, without a decent client, in between office locations, trying to get by just like she’s been in every other Kinsey Milhone Mystery I’ve read. (I’ve read several.)
But, do we really want anything new in a book like this? A mystery series works in part because it delivers what the reader has come to expect. The detective and the supporting cast become people the reader knows well and likes enough to re-visit from time to time. They keep us entertained, but also behave within expected parameters. Should Kinsey ever end up in a good long term relationship it would upset the dynamic and spoil our fun. It would be like what happened to Rhoda after she got married. We want to be entertained by a mystery series, but I don’t think we really want to be challenged, not in a new way, not really.
P is for Peril fits the bill. The book starts with the crime like a good mystery should. We follow Kinsey through the usual cast of suspects and witnesses, a client who might be guilty, a date who may have murdered his parents. Reading P is for Peril is like watching someone who is very good at their job work through a difficult project. Kinsey’s usual acerbic narration takes us along for an enjoyable ride and basically delivers the goods throughout.
This review first ran on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. back in 2008. I will confess here that I have never actually read a Sue Grafton novel. I listened to them on tape. Actual cassettes. Most of them read by Judy Kaye but some read by Kathy Bates. I enjoyed all of the eight I listened to, but I haven’t done one since 2008. I bet I could find them at my local library’s montly book sale.