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N is for Noose


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The noose of the title implies a tight knot, but the twists and turns of Grafton's latest plot are pretty loose. Not that the fans of self-reliant PI Kinsey Millhone's 13 previous alphabet appearances (from 1982's A Is for Alibi through 1996's M Is for Malice) are likely to object. This story takes Kinsey away from her Southern California coastal town of Santa Teresa to the small mountain community of Nota Lake in the Sierras. There, Selma Newquist hires Kinsey to ferret out the problem that had been seriously bothering her cop husband, Tom, before his recent death from a heart attack. Kinsey's efforts are soon stonewalled as the residents of Nota Lake unite, suggesting that the widow is being troublesome while the good-guy cop should be left to rest in peace. Kinsey wonders whether the townspeople might be right until she is seriously beaten up in her Nota Lake motel room. Focusing on finding the dead man's missing notebook, she follows his trail to a seedy hotel not far from Santa Teresa that he visited a few weeks before his death. While keeping a suspicious eye on the dead man's police partner and a few other local figures, Kinsey determines that Tom Newquist had been investigating an old murder near Nota Lake, which may have had ties to a similar, recent murder. Lots of coincidences, some over-the top characters, including a hyper-raunchy older woman, and some unprepared-for elements contribute to the rather chaotic climax. But Grafton's easy-reading, intelligent prose and her heroine's sharp humor, served up dark and wry, make up for a slew of plot weaknesses. 1,000,000 first printing; Mystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild selection; 18-city author tour. (May)

"Sometimes I think about how odd it would be to catch a glimpse of the future, a quick view of events lying in store for us at some undisclosed date.... If we understood the consequences of any given action, we could exercise discretion, thus restructuring our fate." So a more contemplative Kinsey Millhone ("L" Is for Lawless, LJ 8/95) begins her 14th alphabetically inspired adventure. Stopping in the Northern California town of Nota Lake on her way home to Santa Theresa, Kinsey is hired by Selma Newquist to investigate why her husband, a police detective, was so moody before his fatal heart attack. What seems to be a routine case quickly becomes something bigger, involving two murders via hanging, with unforeseen consequences for Kinsey and Selma. While the usually sassy Kinsey wit is here, the novel has an almost melancholic mood; there is less violence (and plot-driven action) and more emphasis on character. One of the more thoughtful mysteries in the series. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/98.]‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"

"UNLIKE MANY DETECTIVE SERIES, GRAFTON'S SEEMS ONLY TO GET BETTER EVERY TIME."--Entertainment Weekly"The lady can write. . . . Any reader who needs a smart and sassy P. I. would do well to hire Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone."--The New York Times

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