Sometimes it's best to walk away from a case, even before beginning the inquiry. Private investigator Kinsey Millhone learns that lesson the hard way in D is for Deadbeat.
A stranger, calling himself Alvin Limbardo, wants to hire Kinsey to deliver a $25,000 check to someone named Tony Gahan. The no-nonsense investigator has a strange feeling in her gut, but accepts Limbardo's case with a $400 retainer payment.
Kinsey should have trusted her instinct, because Limbardo's good-faith check bounces like a rubber ball. Further investigation reveals the true identity of Alvin Limbardo. He is John Daggett, an ex-con with five counts of vehicular manslaughter under his belt. Now that Kinsey has his real name, can she track him down and get some answers?
No. You see, before Kinsey is able to catch up with the con man, he washes ashore on a Santa Teresa beach. The private eye finds it impossible to walk away from the case. After all, she's holding a $25,000 check addressed to a 15 year-old boy tragically tied to Daggett's past.
The authorities rule Daggett's death as an accidental drowning, but Kinsey isn't buying it. She has a sense of duty to the con man/former client and investigates his passing for his daughter.
Who killed John Daggett? There certainly are a lot of suspects. The $25,000 is stolen from some prison mates. Maybe they want it back. He was a compulsive gambler and drinker. Maybe he owed a debt and people were looking for him to pay up. And of course, there are the surviving family members of the five people he killed while driving drunk years ago.
D is for Deadbeat chronicles Kinsey's hunt for answers. The investigation has her going to Los Angeles and back, dealing with people from all walks of life. Daggett apparently had two wives and a shady past. Readers also get to meet Tony Gahan and the family members who have suffered from the drunk-driving tragedy.
This is the fourth installment of Sue Grafton's popular alphabet series and it is also the most depressing. Drunk-driving deaths, drowning and con jobs dominate the story. Rosie, the cranky Hungarian restaurant owner makes a small appearance. Henry, our favorite octogenarian landlord, is completely absent. Too bad, since he could have easily cheered up such a sad story.
There are several characters with valid murder motives. Still, the killer stood out like a beacon in front of me. I make this point, because I am usually unable to solve mysteries. When I do, it's worth the mention to suggest that maybe the story wasn't complicated enough.
Don't misunderstand, D is for Deadbeat is an adequate edition to the Kinsey Millhone series. There's enough suspense and suspects to maintain a reader's interest. It's just that the subject matter is a downer. The story ends on a sad note as well. I felt relieved to finish the book, bummed about the ending rather than satisfied the case was solved.
Naturally, if you're a new fan of Sue Grafton, you'll want to read all of the Kinsey Millhone adventures including this one. It comparison with the other installments, though, D is for Deadbeat isn't my favorite and it's definitely the most depressing of the bunch. Read it if you're so inclined, but understand Kinsey has seen better days and solved better cases.