Fiction: “I is for Innocent” by Sue Grafton

InnocentI almost just typed that I is for Innocent was written by Kinsey Millhone. That’s … that’s great, Alaina. It’s been almost a month since you posted here, bringing your book blog backlog back up to 9 reviews (plus one year-end review!), and you can’t even distinguish between the author and the main character? I mean, on the one hand, I guess kudos to Ms. Grafton for continuing to make a character seem real enough that these books could be an autobiography? But on the other hand, how are you so tired, Alaina, you slept nine hours last night and just woke up from an hour’s nap, you should have this straight by now! Also, the book is right by your elbow. Come on, son.

SO ANYWAY, we’re nearing the end of the 2015 backlog, and as December was closing out, I was chomping at the bit to get as many books completed as possible. (Lousy stupid Mysteries of Udolpho, throwing off my groove.) Apparently when I’m hitting that mark, I reach for Sue Grafton because a) I’m still at the point where I’ve read them before and b) they’re a quick read. I say “apparently” because that’s exactly what I did when I read H is for Homicide back in December of 2013. So, much like when I read Festival of Deaths, it had been at least two years in-between books of series.

I’d say I need to get better at that – and, spoiler alert, I do for one of the series I’ve mentioned before – but I just got the second book in a series from the library today where I read the first book back in 2011. So, five years. Great. Good job, Alaina; you practically have to read the first book all over again to get going.

Thank god I don’t have to do that with the Sue Grafton series; I’d never finish.

As I mentioned in my review of H is for Homicide, Kinsey gets separated from California Fidelity, the insurance company that provided her office space in exchange for investigative services. Before I is for Innocent picks up, Kinsey has found a new place to operate: in the office building of Kingman and Associates. She’d done some work for Lonnie before, and they have a good arrangement. The book starts off by Lonnie giving Kinsey some work: the murder of Isabelle Barney is being dealt with again, this time in a civil suit against the unproven killer, her ex-husband David Barney. The private investigator Lonnie originally hired to gather evidence has unfortunately dropped dead of a heart attack, and the trial begins in three weeks. Kinsey thinks it’s going to be a simple case of gathering depositions and reviewing Morley Shine’s PI files. As usually happens when Kinsey gets involved, it’s not easy at all.

Everyone hates David Barney, but he had an alibi for Isabelle’s murder, so he got off at the criminal trial. Now Isabelle Barney’s first ex-husband is trying David civilly in an attempt to get closure. And Kinsey’s learning all sorts of stuff about David and who else may be a suspect, when David Barney calls her and proclaims his innocence. And unfortunately, what he’s saying starts to make sense.

Kinsey follows the evidence through numerous twists and turns, and at the end of the book, Kinsey gets to show her bad-ass side off. Compared to other series I read, there really isn’t a lot of violence in the Alphabet series, and while Kinsey does put herself into dangerous situations, it’s rare that those situations become life-threatening. Without spoiling the twists and turns I mentioned, Kinsey gets into a shoot-out with a bad guy, and the difference between life and death is literally one bullet. It is a less funny, more tense version of the Who Killed The Chandelier bit.

Man, I haven’t watched that movie in forever.

The other thing Kinsey deals with in this book is near-crippling doubt. Getting fired, so-to-speak, from California Fidelity hit her harder than she had originally thought. Kinsey’s traditional attempt to deal with things is usually to throw off a sarcastic, self-deprecating remark and continue on her merry way. (I wonder if that’s where I get it from …) But being out of a work-home, and now having to forge a new version of a working relationship with Lonnie — she experiences doubt. Does she still have it in her to continue to be a private investigator?

Spoiler alert! This book is letter I. We haven’t even reached the halfway point of the series. Yes, she’s still got it.

But everyone goes through moments of doubt in their lives. And it’s comforting to know that a person that you admire (fictional or otherwise) can have the same experience as you, even when that person is a bad ass that can demonstrate the ability to count bullets in the middle of a firefight.

And … that’s about all I’ve got for I is for Innocent. One more book until 2016!

Grade for I is for Innocent: 3 stars

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