"I met Bobby Callahan on Monday of that week. By Thursday, he was dead. He was convinced someone was trying to kill him and it turned out to be true, but none of us figured it out in time to save him. I never worked for a dead man before and I hope I won't have to do it again. This report is for him, for whatever it's worth."
From the first paragraph of C is for Corpse it's clear that this is not the usual case for Kinsey Millhone. Fans of Grafton's other novels know that Kinsey is a quirky, no-nonsense private investigator whose adventures have been published for years in this bestselling series.
Her life may seem boring compared to her detective counterparts. From the converted garage apartment to her trusty VW bug, it is clear Kinsey doesn't lead the glamorous life of many a fictitious private investigator. However, loyal followers know that Millhone's life is anything but boring.
Kinsey meets Bobby at a gym. Both are in the middle of strenuous physical therapy regimens. Kinsey is rehabilitating her arm which had a meeting with a bullet. Bobby is recovering from several deforming and disabling injuries he suffered during a tragic car accident.
The young man tells his story to Kinsey. Before the crash, Bobby was a California boy with good looks and charm. He came from money and drove a fast car. He had just graduated from college and was pursuing further study in medical school. His plans and his life were changed forever when his car went off the road.
The two broken strangers become friends. Bobby wants to hire Kinsey to investigate his accident. He is convinced someone deliberately ran him off the road. Unfortunately, the trauma has erased most of Bobby's memories of events right before the accident. Someone wanted to kill him, but Bobby can't remember who would want to do so or why.
Kinsey takes the case. The police believe the incident was just a matter of a rich boy driving too fast on a sharp curve. Family and friends doubt Bobby's hunch as well. Kinsey interviews several relatives and acquaintances, including Bobby's mother, stepfather, stepsister, psychiatrist, boss, and friends.
At first the sensible investigator has no leads. Bobby's memory loss prevents him from offering much help. He remembers giving a little red address book to somebody but doesn't know who or why. The name Blackman fits into the case, too, though nobody is known by that name.
Of course we know that Bobby dies during the investigation. As a tribute to her lost friend, Kinsey continues with the case. It appears that Bobby's suspicions of attempted murder (and possibly murder) were right. Bobby's family and friends all act strangely, and few can be eliminated as suspects. The search for answers into the death of Bobby Callahan is the subject of C is for Corpse.
The third novel in the popular Grafton series also has a small side plot regarding Kinsey's landlord, Henry. It seems the octogenarian is smitten with a new gal who is just a bit too shady for Kinsey's comfort. The trusty investigator feels the need to protect Henry like a grandfather and she checks out the checkered background of his girlfriend. Kinsey must find the dirt on the gal before she robs Henry blind.
These two plots weave nicely together. Solving Henry's problem gives Kinsey (and readers) a little relief from the sad Callahan case. Grafton portrays Bobby as a nice, caring guy despite his earlier wealthy life in the fast lane. Readers root for Kinsey in support of Bobby's memory.
The cast of suspects is adequate, but not too exciting. Bobby's stepsister is a perpetually-stoned head case. His mother is a shell of her past self. His stepfather is a big oaf whose own stupidity makes him a suspect. Overall, the whole group just didn't seem as exciting and odd as those featured in other Grafton books.
I wasn't entirely impressed with the ending of C is for Corpse either. Kinsey does some far-fetched acts with an x-ray machine. Even the final showdown was comfortably and conveniently complete, in my opinion. There was a fair amount of suspense throughout the novel, but I never felt the urge to stay up at night and read more.
Still, the Kinsey Millhone series is a must read for any mystery lover. Our heroine is smart and funny, which is a refreshing change from the silly leading ladies who "have it all." Grafton's works can be considered light reading, but that observation shouldn't deter from the sheer entertainment value.
It is not necessary to start this series with A is for Alibi. The author always does a great job of filling in new readers about the events in previous installments.
C is for Corpse is not my favorite, but I still consider the novel to be required reading for any true Sue Grafton fan. Enjoy!