While some would say you should read Sue Grafton's alphabet series in order, my thoughts are M is for Malice can stand on its own. Grafton's thirteenth entry in her popular alphabet series has super private detective Kinsey Millhone, investigating a particularly nasty murder. This is a sly, unpredictable, and swiftly moving novel, with a limited romance, as Jonah Robb and Robert Dietz reenters Kinsey's life. I will make some comments about Kinsey and expound what makes her a detective by the plot.
I guess it will be nice to make clear what a private detective is and what aspects a private detective carry. Allan J. Hubin defines a private investigator as one who "seeks clients, accepts pay for his services, and is not a member of an official law enforcement agency; thus both Sherlock Holmes and Mike Hammer are included as are investigators working for private firms such as insurance companies and lawyer-sleuths." .
Let's set our time machine to 1986. What do you see? The first thing you should notice is that there is no access to cell phones, the Internet, or other high-tech equipment used by modern day private investigators. Kinsey relies insted on persistance, imagination, and originality which are the characteristics of a good investigator. The story is told in Kinsey's sharp, distinctive voice. She is tough but vulnerable, observant, and self-critical. Kinsey is a 35-year-old woman who was estranged from her family at the age of 5 because of a horrific car accident. Both of her parents were killed. She survived the accident but has never gotten over the trauma of losing her parents at such an early age. Her aunt raised her until the age of 20, and instilled in Kinsey a strong sense of independence and self-sufficiency, both of which would serve Kinsey well throughout her life. In her mid twenties, she studied to become a private investigator, got her license, and had her first job with a detective agency.