Series: Kinsey Millhone, #13
Publisher: Fawcett, January 1970
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Approaching middle age warily, PI Kinsey Millhone of the Southern California coast is mildly depressed, romantically vulnerable and in the process of reassessing her family ties. Yet, when it comes to her professional abilities, she's at the top of her form, as this deftly plotted and absorbing novel proves. Bader Malek, a local industrial tycoon, has died, and his four sons now stand to inherit a substantial fortune. But one of them, Guy, has been missing since 1968. A drug addict, ne'er-do-well and all-around miscreant, Guy had been disinherited by his exasperated father shortly before he vanished. But that particular will has disappeared, and Kinsey has been hired by the family to find out if Guy is still alive and thus in line to collect his original portion of the estate.
When Kinsey Millhone thinks of the letter “M,” the first thing that comes to mind is murder. Yet when her long-lost cousin, the probate lawyer, asks her to lend a hand to close a missing person’s case, Kinsey finds herself embroiled in a family fueled by murder and malice.
Although M is for Malice isn’t an unusual set-up for one of Kinsey’s case, I was drawn into the story. There was one outstanding difference between this thirteenth book and her other twelve: the victim.
When rebel-without-a-cause Guy Malek left the family home, he didn’t expect to return to it a changed man. Yet, when Kinsey knocks on the door of the reformed bad boy, born again Christian, Malek enters the story with an unexpected touch of innocence. It’s like he grew younger – instead of older and wiser, he became slightly more naive and searched constantly for the good in other people. It created a protective need in both Kinsey and I.
His family, in turn, may win the award for the biggest bunch of arrogant misfits yet. An older brother with a desperate need to control everything, his borderline alcoholic wife, and two younger brothers who have no idea who they truly are and no real desire to figure it out. Leaving Guy Malek with them was something like a sheep among wolves.
The innocence of Guy and the madness of his family created a fantastic story, one that Kinsey narrated, for the most part. She stayed in the background, watching this family drama play out. Normally, the decision to stick her to the sidelines would bother me, but with all the drama going on, it was the perfect choice.
I liked that Grafton pushed Kinsey a little personally. Bringing back Robert Dietz, her old flame, to act as a partner in M is for Malice forced Kinsey to confront some demons she didn’t know she was carrying.
All in all, I loved it. M is for Malice had a great hook – the impressionable, irresistable Guy Malek.