Series: Kinsey Millhone, #11
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 1970
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When Kinsey Millhone answers her office door late one night, she lets in more darkness than she realizes. Janice Kepler is a grieving mother who can't let the death of her beautiful daughter Lorna alone. The police agree that Lorna was murdered, but a suspect was never apprehended and the trail is now ten months cold. Kinsey pieces together Lorna's young life: a dull day job a the local water treatment plant spiced by sidelines in prostitution and pornography. She tangles with Lorna's friends: a local late-night DJ; a sweet, funny teenaged hooker; Lorna's sloppy landlord and his exotic wife. But to find out which one, if any, turned killer, Kinsey will have to inhabit a netherworld from which she may never return.
From the Paperback edition.
On the surface, Lorna Kelper was an ordinary girl, if a little private. In one of the more grisly cases at the Santa Teresa Police Department, she was found dead in her home, a case left unsolved for years. But when Lorna’s mother arrives on Kinsey’s office doorstep late one night, asking for help in finding her daughter’s killer, Kinsey can’t refuse.
Grafton’s 11th book takes a turn to the darker side. While I wouldn’t consider the Kinsey Millhone series light and fluffy, the dark nature of the victim and crime took the series down a darker path. Part was due to the life of the victim herself: a manipulative woman living on the edge, working as a prostitute and testing the patience of those who loved her. I didn’t identify with Lorna or her surviving family, but I felt for them. The arrogance, the denial, the hurt that haunts that household as potently as if Lorna’s ghost actually drifted in the halls.
Kinsey’s relationships didn’t feel quite as real in K is for Killer. I liked the minor characters, but they didn’t have the same vibrancy I’d come to expect from Grafton. They mist have been overshadowed by Lorna’s powerful character – it’s hard to overlook a whirlwind like her.
When Cheney, the new guy, arrives on the scene, I was thrilled. It’s about time Kinsey’s personal life got a little shakeup. At first, everything seemed fine, yet more than halfway through the book, he suddenly mentions a girlfriend. Kinsey doesn’t act surprised, but I found myself rocked and more than a little confused.
Despite a few plot holes, K is for Killer is fascinating. I had to find out what happened to Lorna, why it happened. When Kinsey tugs at a few strings in the family’s defenses, the whole ball unravels and opens the door to the most fascinating depictions of how different people handle grief and jealousy.
As a fan of Grafton’s series, I found K is for Killer fascinating, but without the previous context, it might fall flat for some readers. Yet I loved the darker turn and the focus on the grief, jealousy, and how it affects us.