Kinsey Millhone's personal life is so dreary that even her octogenarian pal and landlord, Henry, is a social butterfly by comparison. At least Henry has a girlfriend. Kinsey's doldrums are lifted when she accepts what appears to be an easy-money assignment from a wealthy local resident. Pick up his errant daughter, Reba Lafferty, from prison. Make sure she registers with the parole board and stays away from booze, drugs and bad company for a few days until she gets back on her feet. A piece of cake, right?
Fans of Grafton's popular alphabet series will be nodding knowingly that the simplest assignment can turn from cake to hash in less time than it takes to open the box. Reba Lafferty turns out to be a handful. She has been spoiled rotten by an indulgent, elderly father who blames her downfall on bad choices in life and friends. These include not only alcohol and drugs but also embezzlement from her employer. Also, she has picked up some pretty interesting pals in prison, to no small concern of her father.
As Kinsey soon discovers, after peering through a hedge and observing a steamy reunion between Reba and her ex-employer within hours of her release from imprisonment for stealing money from his company, there's a whole lot more going on than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, Kinsey keeps running into an old flame, Cheney, from the FBI. Is it personal, business, or a little of both? She discovers that not only is the FBI trying to reel him in, but the IRS is hot on his tail. When details start to emerge on how big a fish Reba's former boss really is, it's all business --- at least until late hours keep Cheney and Kinsey working together and old embers start to rekindle.
Once Reba is convinced that her former boss has been using her --- and cheating on her to boot --- she's ready to help trip him up. Kinsey discovers that Reba has all the right instincts of a perfect private investigator: guts, brains, energy, the ability to lie to get what she wants, and motivation. In fact, she has Kinsey cowering in several exciting scenes of breaking and entering, chase and capture, which lead Kinsey into the line of fire. Reba would make a perfect sidekick for Kinsey in future books, except for one tiny thing --- she's a convicted felon.
Reba may be one of Grafton's more endearing creations. She has blown life into a secondary character, which often takes a back seat in a crime novel. But in R IS FOR RICOCHET, Reba outshines Kinsey and you're pulling for her all the way. You can almost feel Grafton's excitement when Reba comes on the scene.
Now if she could just jumpstart this novel with less meandering and lackluster descriptions, from highway directions and dull wardrobes to menus, R IS FOR RICOCHET would be right up there. Once it gets going, though, it's a page-turner.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 23, 2011