Cover image for "L" is for lawless
Title:
"L" is for lawless
Author:
Grafton, Sue.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Random House Audio Publishing, [1995]

℗1995
Physical Description:
3 audio discs (approximately 3 hrs.) : digital, Dolby processed ; 4 3/4 inc.
General Note:
Abridged.
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780553714883
Format :
Audiobook on CD

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XX(1207230.33) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
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Summary

Summary

Three cassettes 3 hours Read by Judy Kaye Kinsey's skills are about to be sorely tested. She is about to meet her duplicitous match in a couple of world-class prevaricators who quite literally take her for the ride of her life. "L" is for Lawless: Call it Kinsey Millhone in bad company. Call it a mystery without a murder, a treasure hunt without a map, a quest novel with truly mixed-up motives. Call it the return of Kinsey as a bad girl - quick-witted and quicksilvery - poking her nose into everybody's dirty laundry as she joins up with a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in anOur Gangcomedy that will take her halfway across the country and leave her with a major headache and an empty bank balance. America's favorite borderline delinquent is back with her one-liners on tape and her energy level on high, romping through her fastest and funniest adventure in this, her twelfth foray into the alphabet of crime.


Summary

Set in 1980s Santa Teresa, California, Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mystery series feature protagonist Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator. In the twelfth book of the series, the family of a recently passed World War II veteran wonders why the government has no information about his time in the military. Kinsey investigates what appears to be a simple case of government red tape. However, this case is much more perilous and complex than it initially seems, and Kinsey's life might be in danger.


Author Notes

Sue Grafton was born in Louisville, Kentucky on April 24, 1940. She received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Louisville in 1961. Her first novel Keziah Dane was published in 1967. Her second novel, The Lolly-Madonna War, was published in 1969 and she adapted it into a screenplay. After that movie was released in 1973, she worked intermittently writing for television. A series she created, Nurse, ran for two seasons on CBS in the early 1980s.

Her writing career took off when A Is for Alibi was published in 1982 and received the Mysterious Stranger Award. This was the beginning of the Kinsey Millhone Mystery series. B Is for Burglar won the Shamus and Anthony Awards and C Is for Corpse won the Anthony Award. She also received the Cartier Diamond Dagger, the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bouchercon, and the Ross Macdonald Literary Award. She died from cancer on December 28, 2017 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Grafton has covered 11 letters of the alphabet and produced 11 best-sellers starring the popular Kinsey Millhone. The gritty PI has reached near-cult status for many readers, guaranteeing a built-in audience for all her adventures. But Grafton's huge success and the accompanying pressure to produce another 15 "alphabet" books seems to have resulted--at least in her last couple of efforts--in less quality. This time the plot sounds slightly contrived, the writing is a little tired, and Kinsey's spunky earthiness is sometimes grating. The action centers on Kinsey tracking down half-a-million dollars from a decades-old bank heist carried out by a motley trio: Johnny, now dead, Gilbert, a very much alive psychopath, and mild-mannered Ray, the only one of the trio to have done time for the robbery. Ray and his daughter, Laura--a true bimbo--have involved Kinsey in a high-stakes treasure hunt for the loot. Johnny has left a series of cryptic clues behind, but with psycho Gilbert hot on the trail, too, Ray, Laura, and Kinsey figure it's only a matter of time before he finds them and the money. There's a harrowing cross-country chase, plenty of double-crossing shenanigans, an eccentric granny who's proficient with a Louisville Slugger, and a surprising ending. Flaws? Definitely, but Kinsey's irrepressible, irresponsible, still lovable charm shines through vividly enough to keep her old fans, if not win many new ones. (Reviewed July 1995)0805019375Emily Melton


Publisher's Weekly Review

Bemused, beleaguered and begrimed, Southern California's premier PI, Kinsey Millhone leaves her hometown of Santa Teresa in an adventure (her 12th in the alphabet series) that begins straightforwardly enough but quickly twists into a knotted string of untruths. While getting ready for the Thanksgiving Day wedding between a local tavern keeper and the elder brother of her landlord, Kinsey agrees to help the family of recently deceased neighborhood WWII vet, Johnnie Lee, find out why the military has no record of his service. Soon after Kinsey has finished looking (fruitlessly) through his papers, Lee's rooms are burgled, and Ray Rawson, who claims he is an old friend recently arrived in Santa Teresa unaware of Lee's death, is beaten up. Kinsey soon finds herself on a plane bound for Florida, in possession of only the clothes she's wearing and her purse( with an extra toothbrush), trailing a young pregnant woman in possession of a duffel bag spirited from Lee's home. On a stopover in Dallas/Fort Worth, Kinsey sleuths disguised as a hotel maid dusting baseboards (``tough to picture the boy detectives doing this,'' she reflects), meets the increasingly unreliable Rawson again and encounters yet another figure from Lee's past, a violent, vengeful psychopath. While gradually sorting out the connections among this cast, Kinsey travels to Louisville, where Rawson's 80-something mother proves her mettle and Kinsey, determining that lawless, in this case, is neither adjective nor collective noun, unravels a decades-old mystery. 750,000 first printing; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In her 12th alphabetically entitled appearance (e.g., "K" Is for Killer, Holt, 1994), plucky private investigator Kinsey Millhone is just doing a favor for a friend‘checking the military status of a recently deceased neighbor‘when she's sucked into a chase for the spoils of a 1941 bank heist. It's a lively outing with a couple of heart-pounding scenes, some interesting characters (the most memorable: a half-blind 85-year-old grandmother who wields a shotgun and a baseball bat), and even a little detection. There are also hints of Kinsey's connecting with long-lost relatives, plus a romatic wedding of octogenarians. And, as usual, Grafton gives enough background so it's not necessary to start reading the series at "A." With Grafton's legion of fans growing and her first print runs escalating from 150,000 for "H" to 750,000 for "L," every library with mystery readers should have this book, preferably in multiples. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/95.]‘Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 I don't mean to bitch, but in the future I intend to hesitate before I do a favor for the friend of a friend. Never have I taken on such a load of grief. At the outset, it all seemed so innocent. I swear there's no way I could have guessed what was coming down. I came this close to death and, perhaps worse (for my fellow dental phobics), within a hairbreadth of having my two front teeth knocked out. Currently I'm sporting a knot on my head that's the size of my fist. And all this for a job for which I didn't even get paid! The matter came to my attention through my landlord, Henry Pitts, whom everybody knows I've been half in love with for years. The fact that he's eighty-five (a mere fi fty years my se nior) has never seemed to alter the basic impact of his appeal. He's a sweetheart and he seldom asks me for anything, so how could I refuse? Especially when his re­quest seemed so harmless on the face of it, without the faintest suggestion of the troubles to come. It was Thursday, November twenty-first, the week before Thanksgiving, and wedding festivities were just getting under way. Henry's older brother William was to marry my friend Rosie, who runs the tacky little tavern in my neigh­borhood. Rosie's restaurant was traditionally closed on Thanksgiving Day, and she was feeling smug that she and William could get hitched without her losing any busi­ness. With the ceremony and reception being held at the restaurant, she'd managed to eliminate the necessity for a church. She'd lined up a judge to perform the nuptials, and she apparently considered that his services were free. Henry had encouraged her to offer the judge a modest honorarium, but she'd given him a blank look, pretending she didn't speak English that well. She's Hungarian by birth and has momentary lapses when it suits her purposes. She and William had been engaged for the better part of a year, and it was time to get on with the big event. I've never been certain of Rosie's actual age, but she has to be close to seventy. With William pushing eighty-eight, the phrase "until death do us part" was statistically more sig­nificant for them than for most. Before I delineate the nature of the business I took on, I suppose I should fill in a few quick personal facts. My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a licensed investigator, fe­male, twice divorced, without children or any other pesky dependents. For six years I'd had an informal arrangement with California Fidelity Insurance, doing arson and wrong­ful death claims in exchange for office space. For almost a year now, since the termination of that agreement, I'd been leasing an office from Kingman and Ives, a firm of attor­neys here in Santa Teresa. Because of the wedding I was taking a week off, looking forward to rest and recreation when I wasn't helping Henry with wedding preparations. Henry, long retired from his work as a commercial baker, was making the wedding cake and would also be catering the reception. There were eight of us in the wedding party. Rosie's sister, Klotilde, who was wheelchair bound, would be serving as the maid of honor. Henry was to be the best man, with his older brothers, Lewis and Charlie, serving as the ushers. The four of them--Henry, William, Lewis, and Charlie (also known collectively as "the boys" or "the kids")--ranged in age from Henry's eighty-five to Char­lie's ninety- three. Their only sister, Nell, still vigorous at ninety- five, was one of two bridesmaids, the other being me. For the ceremony Rosie had elected to wear an off-white organza muumuu with a crown of baby's breath en­circling her strangely dyed red hair. She'd found a bolt of lavish floral polished cotton on sale . . . pink and mauve cabbage roses on a background of bright green. The fabric had been shipped off to Flint, Michigan, where Nell had "run up" matching muumuus for the three of us in atten­dance. I couldn't wait to try mine on. I was certain that, once assembled, the three of us would resemble nothing so much as a set of ambulatory bedroom drapes. At thirty- fi ve, I'd actually hoped to serve as the oldest living fl ower girl on record, but Rosie had decided to dispense with the role. This was going to be the wedding of the decade, one I wouldn't miss for all the money in the world. Which brings us back to the "precipitating events," as we refer to them in the crime trade. I ran into Henry at nine that Thursday morning as I was leaving my apartment. I live in a converted single-car ga­rage that's attached to Henry's house by means of an en­closed breezeway. I was heading to the supermarket, where I intended to stock up on junk food for the days ahead. When I opened my door, Henry was standing on my front step with a piece of scratch paper and a tape dispenser. Instead of his usual shorts, T-shirt, and fl ip- flops, he was wearing long pants and a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I said, "Well, don't you look terrific." His hair is stark white and he wears it brushed softly to one side. Today it was slicked down with water, and I could still smell the warm citrus of his aftershave. His blue eyes seem ablaze in his lean, tanned face. He's tall and slender, good-natured, smart, his manner a perfect blend of courtliness and nonchalance. If he wasn't old enough to be my granddaddy, I'd snap him up in a trice. Henry smiled when he saw me. "There you are. Per­fect. I was just leaving you a note. I didn't think you were home or I'd have knocked on the door instead. I'm on my way to the airport to pick up Nell and the boys, but I have a favor to ask. Do you have a minute?" "Of course. I was on my way to the market, but that can wait," I said. "What's up?" "Do you remember old Mr. Lee? They called him Johnny here in the neighborhood. He's the gentleman who used to live around the corner on Bay. Little white stucco house with the overgrown yard. To be accurate, Johnny lived in the garage apartment. His grandson, Bucky, and his wife have been living in the house." The bungalow in question, which I passed in the course of my daily jog, was a run-down residence that looked as if it was buried in a field of wild grass. These were not classy folk, unless a car up on blocks is your notion of a yard ornament. Neighbors had complained for years, for all the good it did. "I know the house, but the name doesn't mean much." "You've probably seen 'em up at Rosie's. Bucky seems to be a nice kid, though his wife is odd. Her name is Babe. She's short and plump, doesn't make a lot of eye contact. Johnny always looked like he was homeless, but he did all right." I was beginning to remember the trio he described: old guy in a shabby jacket, the couple playing grab-ass, look­ing too young for marriage. I cupped a hand to my ear. "You've been using past tense. Is the old man dead?" "I'm afraid so. Poor fellow had a heart attack and died four or five months back. I think it was sometime in July. Not that there was anything odd about it," Henry hastened to add. "He was only in his seventies, but his health had never been that good. At any rate, I ran into Bucky a little while ago and he has a problem he was asking me about. It's not urgent. It's just irksome and I thought maybe you could help." I pictured an unmarked key to a safe-deposit box, miss­ing heirs, missing assets, an ambiguity in the will, one of those unresolved issues that the living inherit from the newly departed. "Sure. What's the deal?" "You want the long version or the short?" "Make it long, but talk fast. It may save me questions." I could see Henry warm to his subject with a quick glance at his watch. "I don't want to miss the fl ight, but here's the situation in a nutshell. The old guy didn't want a funeral, but he did ask to be cremated, which was done right away. Bucky was thinking about taking the ashes back to Columbus, Ohio, where his dad lives, but it occurred to him his grandfather was entitled to a military burial. I guess Johnny was a fighter pilot during World War Two, part of the American Volunteer Group under Claire Chennault. He didn't talk much about it, but now and then he'd reminisce about Burma, the air battles over Rangoon, stuff like that. Anyway, Bucky thought it'd be nicer: white marble with his name engraved, and that kind of thing. He talked to his dad about it, and Chester thought it sounded pretty good, so Bucky went out to the local Veterans Administration offi ce and filled out a claim form. He didn't have all the informa­tion, but he did what he could. Three months went by and he didn't hear a thing. He was just getting antsy when the claim came back, marked "Cannot Identify." With a name like John Lee, that wasn't too surprising. Bucky called the VA and the guy sent him another form to complete, this one a request for military rec ords. This time it was only three weeks and the damn thing came back with the same rubber stamp. Bucky isn't dumb, but he's probably all of twenty-three years old and doesn't have much experience with bu­reaucracy. He called his dad and told him what was going on. Chester got right on the horn, calling Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, which is where the Air Force keeps personnel files. I don't know how many people he must have talked to, but the upshot is the Air Force has no record of John Lee, or if they do, they won't talk. Chester is con­vinced he's being stonewalled, but what can he do? So that's where it stands. Bucky's frustrated and his dad's madder than a wet hen. They're absolutely determined to see Johnny get what he deserves. I told 'em you might have an idea about what to try next." "They're sure he was really in the service?" "As far as I know." I felt an expression of skepticism cross my face. "I can talk to Bucky if you want, but it's not really an area I know anything about. If I'm hearing you right, the Air Force isn't really saying that he wasn't there. All they're saying is they can't identify him from the information Bucky's sent." "Well, that's true," Henry said. "But until they locate his rec ords, there isn't any way they can process the claim." I was already beginning to pick at the problem as if it were a knot in a piece of twine. "Wasn't it called the Army Air Force back in those days?" "What difference would that make?" "His service rec ords could be kept somewhere else. Maybe the army has them." "You'd have to ask Bucky about that. I'm assuming he's already tried that line of pursuit." "It could be something simple . . . the wrong middle initial, or the wrong date of birth." "I said the same thing, but you know how it is. You look at something so long and you don't even really see it. It probably won't take more than fifteen or twenty minutes of your time, but I know they'd be glad to have the input. Chester's out here from Ohio, wrapping up some details on his father's probate. I didn't mean to volunteer your ser­vices, but it seems like a worthy cause." "Well, I'll do what I can. You want me to pop over there right now? I've got the time if you think Bucky's home." "He should be. At least he was an hour ago. I appreciate this, Kinsey. It's not like Johnny was a close friend, but he's been in the neighborhood as long as I have and I'd like to see him treated right." "I'll give it a try, but this is not my bailiwick." "I understand, and if it turns out to be a pain, you can dump the whole thing." I shrugged. "I guess that's one of the advantages in not being paid. You can quit any time you want." "Absolutely," he said. I locked my front door while Henry headed toward the garage, and then I waited by the drive while he backed the car out. On special occasions he drives a fi ve-window coupe, a 1932 Chevrolet with the original bright yellow paint. Today, he was taking the station wagon to the airport since he'd be returning with three passengers and countless pieces of luggage. "The sibs," as he called them, would be in town for two weeks and tended to pack for every con­ceivable emergency. He eased to a stop and rolled down the window. "Don't forget you're joining us for dinner." "I didn't forget. This is Lewis's birthday, right? I even bought him a present." "Well, you're sweet, but you didn't have to do that." "Oh, right. Lewis always tells people not to buy a pres­ent, but if you don't, he pouts. What time's the celebration?" "Rosie's coming over at fi ve forty-five. You can come anytime you want. You know William. If we don't eat promptly, he gets hypoglycemic." "He's not going with you to the airport?" "He's being fitted for his tux. Lewis, Charlie, and I get fitted for ours this afternoon." "Very fancy," I said. "I'll see you later." I waved as Henry disappeared down the street and then let myself out the gate. The walk to the Lees' took ap­proximately thirty seconds--six doors down, turn the cor­ner, and there it was. The style of the house was hard to classify, a vintage California cottage with a fl aking stucco exterior and a faded red- tile roof. A two-car garage with dilapidated wooden doors was visible at the end of the narrow concrete drive. The scruffy backyard was now the home of a half-dismantled Ford Fairlane with a rusted-out frame. The facade of the house was barely visible, hidden behind unruly clusters of shoulder-high grass. The front walk had been obscured by two mounds of what looked like wild oats, brushy tops tilting toward each other across the path. I had to hold my arms aloft, wading through the weeds, just to reach the porch. I rang the bell and then spent an idle moment picking burrs from my socks. I pictured microscopic pollens swarm­ing down my gullet like a cloud of gnats, and I could feel a primitive sneeze forming at the base of my brain. I tried to think about something else. Without even entering the front door, I could have predicted small rooms with rough stucco arches between, offset perhaps by ineffectual at­tempts to "modernize" the place. This was going to be pointless, but I rang the bell again anyway. The door was opened moments later by a kid I recog­nized. Bucky was in his early twenties. He was three or four inches taller than I am, which would have put him at fi ve nine or five ten. He wasn't overweight, but he was as doughy as a beer pretzel. His hair was red-gold, parted crookedly in the center and worn long. Most of it was pulled back and secured in some scraggly fashion at the nape of his neck. He was blue-eyed, his ruddy complexion looking blotchy under a four-day growth of auburn beard. He wore blue jeans and a dark blue long- sleeved corduroy shirt with the tail hang­ing out. Hard to guess what he did for a living, if anything. He might have been a rock star with a six-figure bank ac­count, but I doubted it. "Are you Bucky?" "Yeah." I held my hand out. "I'm Kinsey Millhone. I'm a friend of Henry Pitts's. He says you're having problems with a VA claim." He shook my hand, but the way he was looking at me made me want to knock on his head and ask if anyone was home. I plowed on. "He thought maybe I could help. Mind if I come in?" "Oh, sorry. I got it now. You're the private detective. At first, I thought you were someone from the VA. What's your name again?" "Kinsey Millhone. Henry's tenant. You've probably seen me up at Rosie's. I'm there three or four nights a week." Recognition fi nally flickered. "You're the one sits in that back booth." "I'm the one." "Sure. I remember. Come on in." He stepped back and I moved into a small entrance hall with a hardwood fl oor that hadn't been buffed for years. I caught a glimpse of the kitchen at the rear of the house. "My dad's not home right now, and I think Babe's in the shower. I should let her know you're here. Hey, Babe?" No reply. Excerpted from L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton. Copyright (c) 1995 by Sue Grafton. Published in November 2009 by St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher. Excerpted from L Is for Lawless by Sue Grafton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.