Does a voluminous book require an equally voluminous review?
I gather that it doesn’t, for some books, either good or bad, can do with a short verdict. V for Vengeance is such a book. It was a rather copious book for me and I am surprised I managed to read it and even like it. In fact I am even more surprised because crime novels aren’t actually my thing. But then again it was unavoidable because my local library’s collection of English books consist of three bookcases, about shoulder high and two meters in length, and two of them are filled with crime novels, just to give you an idea.
V for Vengeance is also a surprise because the leading character, Kinsey Millhone, is not your typical hard boiled private detective. You know, the kind Humphrey Bogart plays in the Maltese Falcon or in the Big Sleep, a cynical loner with no love for the police and almost no social life to speak of. Kinsey Millhone is more akin to Gittes from Chinatown. She is a stickler for the rules, tries to stay on the good side of the police and avoids violence.
The story is also somewhat unusual in that the it isn’t actually a whodunit, but rather a howdoesitallfittogether kind of tale. From the start you know who has done it and you follow Kinsey on her investigations knowing that somewhere down the line she might run into the killer. Just you do not know how and when. You also know that Kinsey isn’t aware of this because her job has got nothing to do with figuring out who killed the victim – because it is assumed she has committed suicide- but with finding out about her shoplifting past. This against Kinsey knowing better, for she has caught the victim redhanded. Interspaced with Kinseys story is that of Nora and Dante. Nora is a woman who finds out that her husband is cheating on her and Dante is a loanshark with ties to the maffia, who wants out of the business. A love relation of sorts develops between Dante and Nora, but a dark secret is between them.
All the story-lines come together at the end. I found it a nice read, although at times Grafton relies a bit (too) much on coincidences. But for me it was a untypical crime novel with a low violence level and believable characters.
There are a few annoyances.
The book is copious because Grafton takes her time in spinning out her tale where she could have kept things interesting by trimming the text. For instance she has a tendency to describe chores in detail while this serves no purpose but to bore the reader. It could have saved maybe a hundred pages if these superfluous lines had been removed.
Also I find Kinsey’s enmity towards the reporter Diana somewhat too ‘classical’. PI’s either dislike the police or the press or both. And everyone hates politicians. It would have been nice if Grafton had avoided this overused story feature.
The last thing I found strange was that one of the cops – the corrupt one- seemed to be everywhere. I find it just hard to belief that he happens to stonewall the right persons, manages to manipulate the press and the evidence and also has a lot of cop friends who are doing him favors beyond the call of duty. It was a weak plot element to rely on such a typical omnipresent bad guy and it should have been avoided.
I did like the book and would like to read another one(I understand it is part of a series).
Hmmm.. this review is longer than expected.