Alphabet Mystery: Homicide

“H” Is for Homicide, by Sue Grafton, was published in 1991.

I downloaded it from the King County Library System.

Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone has been bartering for office space with California Fidelity Insurance for six years. They provide her an office in exchange for investigating arson or wrongful death claims whenever they need it. Before becoming a PI, Kinsey was a California Fidelity employee.

California Fidelity is not doing well, financially. They’ve brought in an efficiency expert from Palm Springs, named Gordon Titus.

(I thought this took place in the next book, “I” Is for Innocent, but instead, that was a recap of this book. Oops. This is a down side of reading this series out of order.)

Kinsey Millhone is happy. She’s just finished up a three-week job for a San Diego company that paid her well to investigate one of their executives. After her investigation was over, the company even paid for an additional weekend stay in San Diego.

At 3:00 on Saturday morning, Kinsey wakes up feeling homesick, and decides to end her free weekend early. She drives back to Santa Teresa in her “new” used 1974 pale blue VW bug. (This is a reference to events in “G” Is for Gumshoe.)

After the five hour drive from San Diego to Santa Teresa, Kinsey stops by the California Fidelity offices to pick up some things. Strangely, the building’s parking lot is full of people. Some of those people are police officers.

There’s been a homicide.

Parnell Perkins had been a claims adjuster at California Fidelity for three months. He’d been shot at close range. Kinsey Millhone considered him a close friend.

The employees of California Fidelity are still dealing with the death of their coworker when the efficiency expert arrives ahead of schedule. Right away, he fires three people. Then he requests a meeting with Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey is puzzled, but not too worried. After all, she’s not an employee of California Fidelity.

The day before Kinsey’s meeting with Gordon Titus (CF employees secretly call him “Mr. Tight-Ass”), Claims Manager Vera Lipton hands Kinsey a file that Parnell Perkins had been working on before passing it on, for an unknown reason, to another claims adjuster. Vera suggests that if Kinsey can wrap it up, the office will look better on Gordon Titus’ report.

The file involves an automotive injury claim made by a woman named Bibianna Diaz. There are details of the claim that California Fidelity finds suspicious.

Kinsey considers staying out of the office for a few days, to postpone her meeting with Gordon Titus, but ultimately decides to show up for the meeting.

Despite Kinsey’s insistence that she’s an independent contractor, not a California Fidelity employee, Gordon Titus acts confused by her presence there. In the six years that she’s had an office in the company, Kinsey has never attended a single company meeting, and has never submitted a single 206 form (whatever that is). She doesn’t report to any one person. She’s given cases by whichever claims adjuster needs her help.

Gordon Titus asks for copies of Kinsey’s files, so the company can determine her rate of pay.

I can tell you that. Thirty bucks an hour, plus expenses.

“Less monies for the rental space, of course,” he said.

In lieu of monies for the rental monies for the office space.

Gordon Titus insists that that can’t be the case.

Finally, Kinsey has had enough of his “bureaucratic bullshit“, and tells him so. She has work to do, and doesn’t have time for this. Gordon Titus walks out of the meeting and goes directly to the Office Manager’s office.

Kinsey Millhone starts work on the Bibianna Diaz case. Right away, she discovers that the address Ms. Diaz gave California Fidelity is a vacant lot.

Kinsey continues investigating the case, even though it’s possible that Gordon Titus has already fired her.

Kinsey goes undercover in order to track down Bibianna Diaz. She puts on a genetic “work outfit” that an ex-con had sewn for her. She opens a locked briefcase that contains sets of fake IDs. Kinsey Millhone becomes a FTD delivery person named Hannah Moore.

(I’d never seen Kinsey go undercover before, aside from occasionally lying about her identity when questioning someone. It’s never even been hinted that she has these fake IDs. I’m not sure that I like this twist.)

Kinsey Millhone goes deep undercover as Hannah Moore to investigate Bibianna Diaz. She enters the nightclub scene of Santa Teresa. She works both against and with the police. She goes into the gang culture of southern California (as an outsider).

The case turns out to be more than a single incident of insurance fraud. And, yes, it’s tied into the killing of Parnell Perkins and at least one other homicide.

“H” Is for Homicide is a tense, well-written thriller. It’s not a mystery. Kinsey Millhone is told, early in the story, who murdered Parnell Perkins, and why. Another mystery does crop up later, but it’s incidental, and is quickly resolved.

I prefer the other stories in this series, in which Kinsey does actual detective work, to this one, in which she’s undercover in a crime ring, trying to find an opportunity to contact the police. I didn’t like the sudden introduction of Kinsey’s undercover equipment, which, so far, hasn’t been used before or since. But I did enjoy the book.

There’s a plot twist on the last page of the last chapter that I thought was awesome.

The book never mentions the year or Kinsey’s age.

The only person whose name begins with “H” is Hannah Moore, and that’s just an alias.

Neither Henry nor Rosie appear in this book.

Despite not actually being a “Kinsey Millhone Mystery,” I liked this book a lot.

Checking In On Alfred Petichore

Phillip finished creating Marie Le Baux’s outfits, and redecorated her assigned bedroom. Then he turned Marie over to me, for the time being.

I’m playing Marie Le Baux using Phillip’s guidelines. Whenever I make a change to Marie’s life, like choosing an umbrella or giving her a bicycle, I let Phillip know.

Sadly, we agreed that the mouse hole that Phillip (as Marie) added to the room redecoration had to be deleted. The mouse was cute, but it was causing Marie stress and interrupting her sleep.

Phillip has asked if Marie will go directly into the Home Decorator career when she ages into a Young Adult. Or will she attend University first? I told him that’s up to him to decide.

Francine Cha and her assistant, Alfred Petichore, are busy raising Marie Le Baux, the current Young Sim in Need at Ms Francine’s Home for Young Sims in Need.

Francine and Alfred are making sure that Marie always finishes her homework. They’re making sure she develops many different skills.

They’re making sure that she also gets out and has fun on the weekends.

Marie Le Baux is learning to craft items from recycled materials. That’s her passion.

She crafted this nifty little table.

Alfred has invited Master Maker Tina Tinker over on several occasions to give Marie crafting tips. Tina is, of course, always glad to help.

After Marie leaves for school, and Francine leaves for work, Alfred Petichore doesn’t have much to do on weekdays.

He does what little house cleaning there is left to do. Then he goes out socializing.

He knocks on doors and introduces himself. He invites Sims out to brunch and discusses interests. He’s making friends.

Alfred Petichore has developed an especially strong friendship with Val Kilmer.

This friendship has Francine Cha concerned.

Francine doesn’t like that she often comes home from work and finds Val there. (What are the two of them doing all day?)

Francine Cha likes Val Kilmer. Everybody likes Val. Francine doesn’t distrust Val, but she is suspicious of the power Val has over Sims. She’s concerned about Val’s influence over Alfred.

Shannon Slade (a former Young Sim in Need) and Maria French (another former Young Sim in Need) were doing well. They had a girlfriend. Then Val Kilmer stepped off a train and made her way into their lives. Things got complicated. Shannon’s house turned into a free love commune.

Francine Cha has been around for a long time. She’s had a variety of spouses. She’s seen some things.

Francine sat Val down and had a forceful heart-to-heart discussion. Val insists that she and Alfred are good friends, nothing more, and that she is still happily married to Shannon Slade.

Francine feels better about the situation now. She believes that Val is being truthful. Still, she’s keeping a watchful eye over things. Francine doesn’t let Val forget that she is a Ghost Cop.

Francine Cha wonders if Alfred Petichore should get a part-time job on the weekdays.

How To Get To Old Navy

We were sitting around this morning, in the middle of a Seattle heatwave. Our apartment always adds at least twenty degrees to the outside temperature. We needed to wash dishes, and we needed to to rearrange our bookshelves, but we were both too unmotivated to either task.

I suggested a trip to Old Navy. I needed a pair of jeans, and I needed a pair of socks. But, for the sake of simplicity, I told Phillip it was just an excuse to get out of the apartment.

We got dressed and headed outside, dropping off some recycling and composting along the way.

How I envisioned the trip: We’d walk up to Capitol Hill Station, and ride Link light rail to Westlake Station (which is across the street from Old Navy).

How Phillip envisioned the trip: We’d walk to Olive Way, and wait for the next bus. If a 10 showed up first, we’d ride to Westlake. If an 8 showed up first, we’d ride to Seattle Center, and ride the monorail to Westlake.

I liked Phillip’s vision better.

We got to Olive Way moments after a 10 bus left the stop. An 8 bus arrived five or six minutes later.

We rode the 8 as far as KOMO Plaza. We walked through the plaza, and past the Space Needle, which was jam-packed with tourists. (Seattle is opening up again!)

The signs at the Seattle Monorail station were confusing. Halfway down the platform, a placard said “Board monorail here” with an arrow pointing to where the door would be if the monorail was there. I took that to mean that they were boarding only through that door. Phillip took it to mean that the monorail was boarding on that side of the platform.

Most people seemed to read it Phillip’s way, and headed to the front of the platform.

Of course, Phillip was right, and that worked in our favor. Since most people skipped the line that had formed at the placard, and had instead moved to the front of the platform, we were able to get a seat together in the back of the monorail.

The monorail was standing room only, which was weird because half the seats were closed off for social distancing.

We exited at Westlake, weaved our way through the serpentine path around the station construction, and walked across the street to Old Navy.

The inside of Old Navy was hotter than our apartment.

I found a selection of jeans at half-price. I bought two pair of jeans, and also two t-shirts suitable for the office. (It’s not like anyone cares what I wear to the office anymore, since I’m still the only one in my department that doesn’t telecommute. But, just in case one of my bosses decides to make an appearance, I probably should look presentable.)

Phillip wanted to go to Target, so we walked over there.

Westlake was jam-packed with people. Phillip suggested going to Pike Place Market, but then immediately rescinded his suggestion. If it was that crowded at Westlake, he said, it would be at least twice as crowded at Pike Place Market. (And hotter, I added.)

We browsed around Target, but didn’t find anything we wanted to buy. At least Target was air-conditioned.

The Target in Downtown Seattle is the only Target I’ve ever seen with large picture windows to the outside.

After Target, Phillip suggested a ride on the First Hill Streetcar.

We walked to University Street Station and rode Link light rail to International District/Chinatown Station.

The train we rode in included the word “Station” in the announcements. “Next stop, Pioneer Square Station.” Either yesterday’s train was a test, or today’s train hadn’t had a software update yet. (I’m thinking now that the latter is the case, since I rode in two “no station” trains yesterday. Unless, of course, I actually rode in the same train twice yesterday.)

We stopped into the Uwajimaya food court, so Phillip could find a bathroom. Then we rode the First Hill Streetcar to Capitol Hill.

We stopped into Phoenix Comics and Games to browse around . Then we continued walking up Broadway in search of food.

We had a late lunch at La Cocina. We both got buzzed. Then we walked home. It was a fun day.

It would have been a lot more fun if it wasn’t so damned hot.

I forgot to buy socks.

No Stations

The Link light rail train I was riding in this morning approached Westlake Station.

The automated voice announced: “Next stop, Westlake.”

It caught my attention, because something sounded different. I couldn’t place what it was, however.

The automated voice announced: “Now entering Westlake. Exit to my right.”

There it was again. Something was off.

We continued on.

The automated voice announced: “Next stop, University Street.”

That’s what was different. It wasn’t “Westlake Station” or “University Street Station” anymore.

“Now entering University Street. Exit to my right.”

“Next stop, Pioneer Square.”

The voice itself sounded different, somehow. But I wasn’t sure about that.

If this is a permanent change, I kind of like it. I like the emphasis on location over station.

(As I write this, though, I’m imagining that “Next stop, Stadium” must sound strange.)

Meanwhile, Sound Transit has increased the frequency of Link trains. Peak hour frequency is up from 12 minutes to 8 minutes. This is good.

Crews have been working on the Pioneer Square Station elevators and escalators this week. This is good, too.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that I prefer the older Link trains to the new ones. Sure, the new, larger windows are nice, and the new, animated destination signs are cool. But the fewer number of seats make the new trains feel more like streetcars.

“Next stop, Capitol Hill.”

So, Even British Columbia Doesn’t Always Get To Play Itself

I enjoy finding interesting things to watch on YouTube.

Phillip enjoys finding interesting things to watch on Hoopla, Kanopy, Shudder, PlutoTV, and other free movie sites.

(This, combined with the fact that Phillip reads faster than me, suggests that he has a longer attention span than me.)

Recently, Phillip found a series named Trickster, from CBC Television, on Shudder. He watched it alone, but I overheard bits of it. He loved it, and he recommended it to me.

And now we’re watching it together, starting (or in Phillip’s case, restarting) from the first episode.

Trickster originally aired in 2020. There were six episodes, with a second season originally planned. But the second season has apparently been cancelled.

The show takes place in Kitimat, British Columbia.

(According to Wikipedia and IMDb, most of the show was actually filmed in Ontario, which tickles me. After Vancouver has been used as a stand-in for so many other North American cities, I think it’s kind of funny that Ontario was used as a stand-in for a show actually set in British Columbia.)

Trickster centers around a Haisla teenager named Jared. He lives with his mother, who argues with people who aren’t there. Jared and his mother are being threatened by a drug dealer named Richie, because Jared’s mother owes him three thousand dollars. Jared is manufacturing his own drugs, which he sells at the fast food restaurant where he works. Jared is using the money from the drug sales to support his father, who is divorced from Jared’s mother.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Wade, an old friend of Jared’s father, arrives in town and wants to befriend Jared.

Jared has a best friend, who goes by his gaming name, Crashpad, who is loyal and caring.

A girl named Sarah moves in across the road. She and Jared strike up a friendship, bordering on romance.

Jared’s life is complex, but then he starts seeing strange things. Is it magic or drugs?

Trickster is spooky, mysterious, and scary. It also manages to be funny. The show also has an awesome soundtrack.

I’ve watched three episodes with Phillip so far. I am loving this show.

Meet Marie Le Baux

One evening, Phillip wanted to play The Sims 4.

This was not Phillip’s first time playing The Sims 4. He created the worlds’ most popular vampire, Daryl Robards, after all. But it has been a while, so he asked for my help.

With Phillip in the “driver’s seat” as he called it, and me offering assistance when he asked for it, or giving tips when I felt it would help, he created a teen Sim named Marie Le Baux.

Marie is creative, and she’s a Maker. She wants to be a Home Decorator when she grows up.

(Whenever I write “Marie”, of course I mean “Phillip playing as Marie.”)

Phillip created Marie’s appearance and personality, gave her some likes and dislikes, and created her everyday outfit. Then he grew tired of Create-A-Sim, and wanted to jump into the game. (I don’t blame him. CAS is a laborious process.) He and I will work on Marie’s other outfits later.

(It was an interesting experience, guiding someone through The Sims 4. I discovered that there was a lot of the game, like changing the camera angle, that I knew how to do, but that I couldn’t remember how to do. I’d tell him things like, “Um, try holding down the left mouse button and moving the mouse. No? Try holding down the scroll wheel…” It was like game play had become instinctual for me.)

Marie Le Baux moved into Ms. Francine’s Home for Young Sims in Need. She moved in on a Friday evening on the last day of Summer.

Marie’s introduction did not go well. Within the first game hour, she lost her homework and she got herself lost. She went to sleep on the porch before she had a chance to have an assigned bed.

(I recreated these screen shots at a later time.)

She got things situated eventually. She had a good night’s sleep in her assigned bed. She completed 50% of her homework.

The next day, Saturday, Marie went to a park and met a potential friend. Together, they traveled to the Festival of Light, in Mt. Komorebi. They got lost along the way, traveled to the wrong neighborhood, but eventually found the festival.

(How is it that I’d never noticed that “Travel to Festival” button before now?)

Marie had fun at the Festival of Light. She met some new Sims.

Clement Frost (a.k.a. Father Winter) paid an off-season visit to the Home on Saturday night. Alfred Petichore (a.k.a. Francine’s assistant) wanted to introduce him to Marie, but Marie was sound asleep after an exhausting day.

On Sunday, Marie finished her homework.

Marie Le Baux is fitting in well at Ms. Francine’s Home for Young Sims in Need.

Francine Cha is teaching Marie how to cook.

Alfred Petichore is teaching Marie how to paint.

Marie wants to redecorate her assigned bedroom. She’s already had the brilliant idea of placing a desk on the second story deck, so she can have a beautiful view to do her homework by.

(I wish I’d thought of that.)

Marie Le Baux starts high school on Monday. Until then, she’s boosting her skill levels, meeting new Sims, and doing her best to keep her Fun in the green.

Goodbye Meghan

Meghan Wright has passed away. She died of old age.

Meghan had been Francine Cha’s assistant at Ms. Francine’s Home for Young Sims in Need during the consecutive stays of Young Sims Maria French and Shannon Slade.

After Shannon Slade left, the Home stayed vacant, apart from Francine and Meghan, for years.

While Francine Cha continued her Ghost Cop career, Meghan Wright remained unemployed outside of the Home. Meghan busied herself with the upkeep of the house, giving tours of the Home, and remaining active in the social lives of Maria and Shannon.

(l-r) Maria French, Daryl Robards, Shannon Slade, Airi Yamamoto, and Meghan Wright

(On a side note, Shannon Slade’s Newcrest home became a free love commune. Shannon offered to let Meghan join in the romantic relationships Shannon had with Val Kilmer, Eve Duncan, and Maria French. Shannon declined, explaining that as both Maria and Shannon’s former mentor, it would be inappropriate.)

Francine Cha has always given her assistants the option of being buried on the Home grounds after their deaths. So far, only Myla Mars and Jade Jenkins have taken that option.

Meghan Wright asked to be buried in Lawsen Cemetery, in Brindleton Bay. Francine had a small ceremony, attended by Maria French, Shannon Slade, and Clement Frost.

Meghan’s good friends Daryl Robards and Alexander Goth had been invited, but they were on vacation, somewhere in the jungles of Selvadorada. They both promised to pay their respects later.

Francine Cha said goodbye to Meghan Wright at the cemetery, in that special way that only a ghost can say goodbye to another ghost.

Meghan asked Francine to mourn for her, but not for long. Ms. Francine’s Home for Young Sims in Need must remain always available, and will need a new assistant soon,

It didn’t take Francine long to find a new assistant. His name is Alfred Petichore. He seems like a neat, enthusiastic, and level-headed fella.

Alphabet Mystery: Undertow

“U” Is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton, was published in 2009.

This book has a terrific first chapter.

It’s Wednesday afternoon, April 6, 1988. Kinsey Millhone’s thirty-eighth birthday is a month away.

Kinsey Millhone introduces herself to the reader on the first page. She works solo as a private investigator in the city of Santa Teresa, California, population 85,000. The people of Santa Teresa generate “sufficient crime to occupy the Santa Teresa Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, and the twenty-five or so private investigators like me.

Kinsey insists that, despite what you may have seen on television, a PI’s life is not dangerous – “except, of course, on the rare occasions when someone tries to kill me.” Her job, she tells us, is largely serving papers and doing background checks.

A young man shows up at Kinsey Millhone’s office unannounced. Her office is “off the beaten path” so it’s unusual for a potential client to show up without making an appointment.

The man introduces himself as Michael Sutton, but he goes by Sutton, because in kindergarten, there were three boys named Michael. Kinsey immediately guesses that he’s the prep school type, and she’s right.

Kinsey and Sutton make idle chitchat. (Kinsey explains to the reader that this is why she prefers a prearranged appointment, so she can at least have some idea ahead of time what the client wants.)

Finally, Sutton gets to why he’s there. A few weeks ago, he was reading a newspaper article about famous kidnappings. One of those kidnappings happened in Santa Teresa. A four year old girl named Mary Claire Fitzhugh was kidnapped in 1967. Her parents paid the ransom, but she was never returned. The kidnappers were never caught.

Kinsey remembers the incident. She’d just graduated from high school when it happened.

Seeing the story triggered a long-forgotten memory, Sutton explains. He went to the Santa Teresa Police, and spoke with a detective named Cheney Phillips, who referred him to Kinsey Millhone.

Sutton remembers that two days after the day of the kidnapping, he turned six years old. His mother dropped him off at a boy’s house while she ran some errands. The boy came down with chicken pox, and was confined to his room upstairs. Sutton walked off to play alone in the woods nearby. He saw two men burying something wrapped in a blanket. He approached the two men and asked if they were pirates. (They were both wearing bandannas.) They said yes, they were pirates, they were digging for buried treasure, and the rolled-up blanket was a bedroll in case they got tired.

Sutton remembers that when he returned from the woods, the boy’s mother made him a sandwich with Miracle Whip, which his mother refused to have in the house because his family’s cook made mayonnaise by hand.

Sutton told his mother about the pirates, but she didn’t believe him.

Now, Sutton doesn’t remember the boy’s name, or where the woods are. That’s why he needs Kinsey’s help. If she can learn these details, he’d have a stronger story to tell the police, and maybe they can solve the kidnapping of Mary Claire Fitzhugh.

Kinsey suggests that Sutton ask his mother about that day. Both of his parents are dead. She suggests that he ask his older siblings if they remember the boy. Sutton explains that he has had a falling out with his family. He hasn’t spoken to his brothers or his sister in years, and doesn’t want to start now. Kinsey suggests that he ask his old prep school, since the boy might have been a classmate. He has reasons for not going back to the school, but he won’t specify what his reasons are.

Kinsey Millhone has never tried to find an unmarked grave, but the prospect is interesting.

There’s the issue of cost, however. Kinsey Millhone charges five hundred dollars per day, plus expenses. Michael Sutton has recently been fired from his job at a radio station, and is getting by on unemployment checks.

Kinsey gives Sutton three choices: either talk to his siblings, talk to the school, or pay her five hundred dollars in advance, in cash.

Sutton promises to bring Kinsey the cash by the end of the day.

That’s Chapter 1.

A mysterious envelope arrives in Chapter 2. It’s obviously a formal invitation of some kind from Kinsey’s family. Kinsey cares about reuniting with her family even less than Michael Sutton cares about reuniting with his. She throws the envelope away without opening it.

Henry Pitts, Kinsey’s landlord and friend, and the one person Kinsey trusts to discuss cases with, appears in Chapter 2. So does Kinsey’s only formal black dress, and so does her Mustang. (Mustang? What happened to her VW? Maybe I should read “S” or “T” soon.)

Chapter 3 makes a sudden shift. The story changes from first person perspective to third person.

It’s April, 1963. The story follows Deborah Unruh. Her 21 year old son, Greg, has dropped out of college and has turned into a hitchhiking hippie.

While Deborah’s husband is away on business, Greg arrives in a converted school bus with a confrontational girlfriend named Shelly.

Shelly has a six year old son. She tells Deborah that Greg is not the boy’s father. Shelly is pregnant, however, and that child is Greg’s.

Deborah Unruh is not pleased, and neither is her husband.

Patrick and Deborah Unruh are in their forties. Their good friends at the county club, Kip and Annabelle Sutton, are ten years younger. Thank goodness the four Sutton children are all too young to be disgusting hippies.

It doesn’t take Kinsey Millhone very long to learn the boy’s name and where he lived in 1967. She brings Sutton to the address, and together they find the spot where the pirates were digging for treasure. Kinsey calls Cheney Phillips, and by the end of Thursday, April 7, the Santa Teresa Police have sent a forensics team with a cadaver dog to the location. What the police dig up is not the body of Mary Claire Fitzhugh, however. Kinsey apologizes to Cheney for wasting the police department’s time, but Cheney shrugs it off.

Kinsey Millhone’s one-day job is over. There are a lot of unanswered questions, the book still had around 300 pages to go, and I had no idea where the two stories were heading.

Then the book adds another third person narrative. Thirty-eight year old financial expert Walker McNally is driving home on Thursday, April 7, 1988. His wife and children are out of town. He’s been trying to keep his alcoholism under control. The road is blocked by several police vehicles. A neighbor tells Walker that the police are looking for a little girl who disappeared a long time ago. Walker McNally eventually gets home, pours himself a drink, and calls his friend Jon to tell him the police are digging in the woods. Jon tells Walker not to panic. All Walker has to do is sit tight and act like everything’s fine.

Later, the book adds a fourth story line. This one tells the story of the troubled childhood of a boy named Jon Corso, and how he came to meet a boy named Walker McNally.

This book kept getting better and better.

What the police dug up in the woods is nothing illegal, and it’s no longer a case that Kinsey Millhone is being paid to investigate. But it has Kinsey curious how it got there. What she discovers ties together the stories of Michael Sutton, Deborah Unruh, Walker McNally, and Jon Corso.

This is a complicated story. It’s a lot more complicated than what I’ve put in this lengthy blog post. And yet, the whole, complicated story is easy to follow.

Con Dolan and Stacey Oliphant (from “Q” Is for Quarry) make an appearance.

Rosie, the tavern owner, makes an appearance. (But I’m not pleased whenever Rosie is treated as little more than a joke.)

Kinsey learns more about her family history, and about Aunt Gin, who raised Kinsey since age five, when both of her parents died, and it presents a different side to the story Kinsey had grown up believing.

Not only is this an excellent Kinsey Millhone mystery, it’s an excellent novel. The story is well constructed. The multiple characters are well rounded. It presents a believable image of private investigator work. I was fascinated by the way various parts of the story are told and retold in different contexts, with details included in one version but omitted in another. And some of the details may not even be true at all, making this a compelling and unpredictable mystery.

The last pages of this book are awesome.

This whole book is awesome.

As of this blog post, “U” Is for Undertow is my favorite book in the Alphabet Mystery series so far.

I loved this book a whole lot.

Another Morning Commute

The Link train I was riding in this morning arrived at University Street Station. The doors opened. A woman’s voice outside called out: “I’m coming in!”

A dog (a German Shepherd?) on a leash walked into the train. An officer in a black police uniform stepped in, holding the other end of the leash.

The officer was cheerful and friendly. She called out a Good Morning to everyone in the train.

On the back of the officer’s vest were the words: “SHERIFF BOMB K9.”

The sheriff made her way from one end of the train car to the other. The dog was sniffing around the whole time.

She greeted every passenger she walked past with a “Good morning”, “How are you?”, or “How’s your day going?”

She said to the homeless man who had been napping on the train, “Do you have a mask, sir? ’cause if you don’t, I can get you one.” The man nodded, and the sheriff thanked him.

The sheriff and the dog exited at Pioneer Square Station, and so did I.

The sheriff gave me a friendly nod as we passed. I looked down to make sure I wasn’t going to bump into the dog. The dog, however, seemed to be well aware of its surroundings and avoided my path.

The sheriff seemed to be enjoying her job.

I went up to the mezzanine. A Transit Security officer was casually leaning on the railing, watching the platforms below.

The sheriff and the dog were still on the platform, walking slowly. I guessed that they were waiting for another train to sniff out.

I’d never seen a bomb-sniffing dog on a Link train before. I didn’t think much about, one way or another, at the time.

As I write this, I’m wondering if the sheriff’s cheerful, outgoing attitude was a deliberate act to make us feel at ease about seeing a bomb-sniffing dog on a train.