W is for WASTED

Written by Sue Grafton

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.


W is for WASTED
Mantle
RRP: £17.99
Released: 09 September 2013
Hbk

Kinsey Milhone has had the kind of luck that most people can only dream about as she’s been left half a million dollars by a man she’s never met. Alive that is. They meet for the first time in the morgue. But her troubles are only just beginning as her mysterious benefactor is one of two dead bodies that lead Kinsey into a medical cover-up and the local homeless community.

Pete Wolinsky, a dubious local PI, is the first death, shot near the Santa Teresa beach. Initially it’s thought to be a robbery gone wrong but once Kinsey starts probing deeper it soon becomes more sinister. The second is a John Doe; homeless, rough sleeper with his only friends, Pearl, Felix and Dandy amongst the invisible community of nomads. But his link to Kinsey is her name and number written on a slip of paper in his pocket.   Initially he’s written off as having died from natural causes but his homeless buddies, Pearl and Felix, have other ideas…

With a steely determination she set out to solve the mystery of the two deaths and it doesn’t take long before she begins to realise that they may be linked.  Pearl and Felix are initially reluctant to help her but they give her his actual name, R T Dace, which doesn’t help much as she still doesn’t know him.  Then it’s revealed that Kinsey is the sole executor and beneficiary of his substantial estate and now has the unpleasant task of contacting his estranged family, who disowned him, to tell them the bad news.  Meanwhile, Pete was working on a case about a dubious drug trial and Dace was taking part in one about which he was increasingly confiding his concerns to Pearl and Felix – could they be connected?

Set in 1988 in the small town of Santa Teresa, it didn’t take long for me to become part of Kinsey’s world. A likeable character with a good line in self-deprecating humour, W is for Wasted is told in the first person narrative in Kinsey’s upbeat, forthright style. So it really jarred when it suddenly switched to the third person when we learn about what happened to Pete. I can understand why writers use this device as it does avoid a lot of unnecessary info dumps about events and characters chatting about them but it does feel like a writer having his cake and eating it.  It takes the reader out of Kinsey’s world, takes them somewhere else and then we’re back again.  I feel that’s why Pete never really came alive as a character for me as he seemed to exist solely to move the plot along. Ruthie, his widow, seemed much more realistic as she sat bewildered by being left with the trail of debts that Pete left behind.

I enjoyed my time in Kinsey’s world as it made a change from reading about serial killers or lead characters personal problems. At times it can feel as if to be a successful detective you must be at least certifiable. Instead, we share her concerns about her bad bargain of a car, Henry her landlord and the visiting William with his cat Ed.  A good blend of several plotlines, deftly handled, with a satisfying conclusion made W is for Wasted an entertaining read. However, despite her windfall, Kinsey likes her life the way it is…

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