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e is for evidence

16 june 2011

There isn't a whole lot of evidence in evidence in Sue Grafton's E is for Evidence, though she tends to honor the alphabetical topos of her Kinsey Millhone series as much in the breach as anywhere else.

Most of the evidence disappears before the plot of E begins. There's been a suspicious fire at a warehouse. Millhone is brought in to investigate; no sooner does she take the case than she's framed for collusion to cover up arson. Grafton rushes the reader through this plot device, which is a good thing: the attempt to frame Millhone is implausibly inept, and in any event it doesn't slow her down for a moment. In fact, sleuthing on her own behalf rather than a client's, as she tries to clear her record, suits Kinsey Millhone to an E.

Once again, Sue Grafton's Santa Teresa is much like Ross Macdonald's. A family too rich and too dysfunctional for its own good is unraveling in a mess of business fraud and murder. They've all known Millhone since high school, adding a Murder, She Wrote kind of overtone – though Macdonald's Lew Archer also sometimes runs into folks he knows from the day, as well.

Millhone runs into a no-good ex-husband in E, too. The entourage she had assembled in C and D disbands temporarily; E is a Christmas story, and the regular series characters go home for the holidays.

E is for Evidence slackens at times, but it's a good acceptable "read." And Grafton knows how to pick up the pace. At one point in the novel, people were schlepping groceries from a car to a house and I thought, "something's about to happen, because damn if the writer can keep up this household detail for another chapter." And things do happen at that point, with a literal bang. Grafton knows how to mix the humdrum with the horrific, one of her many virtues as a crime novelist.

Grafton, Sue. E is for Evidence. 1988. New York: St. Martin's, 2005.