Welcome to the kickoff of Sue Grafton's Blog Tour leading up to the release of V is for Vengeance on Nov. 14. Ten bloggers were asked to review Sue’s five most recent paperback titles to remind you of Kinsey Millhone’s recent adventures. I’m kicking off the blog tour with Q is for Quarry.
You don't have to have read earlier mysteries in the Kinsey Millhone series to appreciate Q is for Quarry. As always, Grafton provides Kinsey's background and skillfully introduces characters. Two aging police officers are haunted by a cold case, the murder of a Jane Doe, an unidentified young woman between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Eighteen years earlier, while hunting, the two men found the body. It was 1969, a year when many young people were on the road. But, Lieutenant Con Dolan, head of homicide for the Santa Teresa, CA police department, and Stacey Oliphant, now retired from the sheriff's department have never forgotten the woman they were unable to identify.
The young woman had been found, stabbed to death, in Grayson Quarry. Even her distinctive appearance did not lead to family or friends. No one stepped forward to claim the body, and her murder went unsolved. Now that both men are closing their careers, they hire Kinsey to help them identify the girl, and, hopefully, find a killer.
When Kinsey accompanies the two men to the property where the body was found, she's in for a rude shock. It was her own grandmother who owned the property, the grandmother who rejected her parents when they married, and then rejected her granddaughter. While researching the history of a Jane Doe, Kinsey learns more about her own mysterious past. Kinsey, a woman who did very well without family, might be dealing with another woman who was rejected, or rejected her own family.
Q is for Quarry is intriguing for all of us who love cold cases. And, this time, along with Kinsey Millhone's wrap-up of the case, Grafton gives us her own Author's Note, providing the background for this story, the actual investigation of a Jane Doe murder that formed the basis for Q is for Quarry.
This book, the cold case, with its connections to Kinsey's own life, remains one of my favorites. I'm looking forward to V is for Vengeance, hoping it's as strong an entry in the series.
Want to know what Jen Forbus thought of Q is for Quarry? Jen's blog, http://www.jensbookthoughts.com/, is the next stop on the blog tour. Check it out on Thursday. And to encourage people to follow the blog tour, Penguin will give three sets of Q, R, S, T, U (paperback) and the brand new V to three different people who comment on every single blog throughout the tour (US/Canada only please).
***** Each blogger will have a portion of V is for Vengeance on their website to wet your appetite. Here's the opening of the book. Enjoy!
Las Vegas August 1986
Phillip Lanahan drove to Vegas in his 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, a snappy little red car his parents had given him two months before, when he graduated from Princeton. His stepfather bought the car secondhand because he abhorred the notion of depreciation. Better that the original owner take that hit. The car was in pristine condition, with 15,000 miles on the odometer, a black leather interior, fully accessorized, with four brand-new tires. The car could jump from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds.
With the top down, he hugged the coastline and then continued traveling east through Los Angeles on the 10. From the 10 he picked up the 15, which took him straight into Vegas. The sun was harsh and the wind whipped his hair to a wild tangle of black. At the age of twenty-three, he knew he was good-looking and he carried the knowledge like a rabbit’s foot for luck. His face was lean, clean-shaven; his dark eyebrows straight; ears tucked close to his head. He wore jeans and a short-sleeve black polo shirt. His white linen sport coat lay folded beside him on the passenger’s seat. In his duffel he had ten grand in hundred-dollar bills, compliments of a loan shark he’d recently met.
This was his third trip to Vegas in as many weeks. The ﬁrst time, he’d played poker at Caesars Palace, which, though vulgar and overblown, had everything you’d ever want in one sprawling complex. That trip had been magical. He could do no wrong. The cards fell into place, one hand after another. He read his opponents, picking up tells so subtle he felt psychic. He’d driven to Vegas with three thousand dollars he’d pulled from a savings account and he’d run it up to eight with no sweat.
The second trip had started out well but then he lost his nerve. He’d returned to Caesars, thinking the same gut-level instincts would come into play, but his reads were off, the cards wouldn’t come, and he couldn’t regain ground. He left the casino a miserable ﬁve grand down. Thus the meeting with the loan shark, Lorenzo Dante, who (according to Phillip’s friend Eric) referred to himself as a “ﬁnancier.” Phillip assumed the term was meant tongue-in-cheek.
He’d been uneasy about the appointment. In addition to Eric’s ﬁlling him in on Dante’s sordid past, he’d assured Phillip the exorbitant fees for the loan were what he called “industry” standard. Phillip’s stepfather had drilled into him the need to negotiate all monetary matters, and Phillip knew he’d have to tackle the issue before he and Dante came to an agreement. He couldn’t tell his parents what he was up to, but he did appreciate his stepfather’s counsel in absentia. He didn’t like the man much, though he had to admit he admired him.
He’d met Dante in his ofﬁce in downtown Santa Teresa. The space was impressive, all glass and high-gloss teak, leather-upholstered furniture, and soft gray wall-to-wall carpeting. The receptionist had greeted him warmly and buzzed him through. A sexy brunette in tight jeans and spike heels had met him at the door and escorted him past ten interior ofﬁces to a large corner suite at the end of the corridor. Everyone he caught sight of was young and casually dressed. He imagined a cadre of tax attorneys, as well as accountants, ﬁnancial hotshots, paralegals, and administrative assistants. Dante was under indictment on racketeering charges, and Phillip had expected an atmosphere both tense and sinister. He’d worn an expensive sport coat, thinking to show respect, but now he realized the image was all wrong. Everyone he saw wore casual attire, stylish but understated. He felt like a kid dressing up in his daddy’s clothes, hoping to be taken for an adult.
The brunette showed him into the ofﬁce, and Dante leaned forward across the desk to shake hands, then motioned Phillip into a seat. Phillip was startled by the man’s good looks. He was in his midﬁfties, a big guy, probably six foot two, and handsome: soulful brown eyes, curly gray hair, dimples, and a cleft in his chin. He appeared to be in great shape. The warm-up conversation had covered Phillip’s recent graduation from Princeton, his dual major (business and economics), and his job prospects. Dante listened with apparent interest, prompting him now and then. Actually, nothing in the way of employment had materialized as yet, but the less said about that the better. Phillip spoke about his options, not mentioning he’d been forced to move back in with his parents. That was too lame to bear thinking about. Phillip began to relax, though his palms were still damp.
Dante said, “You’re Tripp Lanahan’s boy.”
“You knew my dad?”
“Not well, but he did me a good turn once upon a time . . .”
“Excellent. I’m glad to hear that.”
“. . . Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here.”
“I appreciate your time.”
“Your friend Eric says you’re quite the poker player.”
Phillip shifted in his seat, steering a course between modest and boastful. “I played all through college, starting my freshman year at Princeton.”
Dante smiled and his dimples ﬂashed brieﬂy. “No need to mention Princeton again. I know where you went to school. Was this high stakes or you taking change off a bunch of donkeys at some frat house?”
“Actually, I played in Atlantic City and picked up enough change most weekends to cover my expenses.”
“You didn’t work your way through school?”
“I didn’t need to.”
“Lucky you,” Dante said, “though, just off the top of my head, poker parlors couldn’t be the lifestyle your dad had in mind for you.”
“Well, no, sir. I expect to work. That’s why I got my degree. At this point, I’m just not sure what I want to do.”
“But you’ll decide soon.”
“I hope. I mean, that’s certainly my intention.” Under his sport coat, Phillip felt his shirt dampen, sticking to his back. There was something fearsome about the man, almost as though there were two of him, the one benevolent, the other pitiless. On the surface he seemed affable, but underneath, a shadow personality was in play, prickly and sharp. Phillip was anxious, uncertain from moment to moment which of the two he was dealing with. Now Dante’s smile faded and the alternate took over. Maybe it was in business matters that Dante became dangerous.
“And you’ve come to me for what?”
“Eric says you sometimes advance him cash if he’s experiencing a shortfall situation. I was hoping you’d do the same for me.”
Dante’s tone was pleasant, but the benevolence didn’t reach his eyes. “A sideline of mine. I lend money to people the banks won’t touch. For this I charge fees and administrative costs. How much are you looking for?”
Dante stared at him. “Lot of money for a kid.”
Phillip cleared his throat. “Well, ten . . . you know, ten gives me breathing room. That’s how I look at it, at any rate.”
“I take it Eric explained my terms.”
Phillip shook his head. “Not entirely. I thought I should hear it from you.”
“The charge is twenty-ﬁve dollars per hundred per week, payable along with the principal when the note comes due.”
Phillip’s mouth was dry. “That seems steep.”
Dante opened his bottom drawer and pulled out a sheath of papers. “If you like, you can take your chances at the Bank of America two blocks down State. I’ve got the application forms right here.” He tossed a BofA loan application on the desk.
“Hey, no. I understand and I appreciate the position you’re in. You have expenses like everybody else.”
Dante made no response.
Phillip leaned forward, trying for solid eye contact, two men of the world getting down to business. “I’m wondering if twenty-ﬁve per hundred is the best you can do?”
“ ‘The best I can do’? You want to haggle with me?”
“Oh, no, sir. Not at all. That’s not what I meant. I just thought there might be some wiggle room.” He could feel the heat as a belated ﬂush crept into his cheeks.
“Based on what? Our long and productive association? Your prowess at the table? Word has it, you got stuck for ﬁve grand at Caesars last week. You want my ten so you can recoup your losses and run up the rest. You think you’ll pay me off, including the juice, and keep the balance for yourself. Is that about it?”
“Actually, that’s how I’ve done it in the past.”
“ ‘Actually’ you can kiss my ass. All I care about is getting my money back.”
“Absolutely. No problem. You have my word.”
Dante stared at him until he looked away. “How much time are we talking here?”
Dante reached over and ﬂipped a page on his desk calendar. “Monday, August 11.”
“That’d be great.”
Dante made a note.
Phillip hesitated, unsure what came next. “Is there paperwork?”
“An IOU or contract you want me to sign?”
Dante waved off the idea. “Don’t worry about it. Gentlemen’s agreement. We shake hands and it’s done. Check with Nico on your way out and he’ll give you the cash.”
“I mean that.”
“You can thank your old man. I’m returning a kindness from way back,” Dante said. “Speaking of which, I have a friend in management at Binion’s. You play there, he’ll comp you a room. You can tell him I said so.”
“I’ll do that, and thank you so much.”
Dante stood up and Phillip followed suit. As they shook hands, Phillip felt himself breathing a sigh of relief. In his fantasy, he’d played hardball with the vig, and Dante had come down two percentage points, impressed by his bargaining skills. Now he felt sheepish having broached the subject with a man of Dante’s reputation. He was lucky he hadn’t been thrown out on his ass. Or worse.
As though on cue, the door opened and the brunette appeared.
“One word of advice . . .” Dante added.
“Don’t mess up. You dick with me, you’ll be sorry.”
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.