T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
Marian Wood Book/Putnam, 2007
Crime Fiction; 400 pgs
There was a point, later in my grandmother's life, when she was still living on her own; but it was clear those days were numbered. She was showing signs of dementia and of not being able to care for herself. I remember one instance in particular, right around the time my mom and her siblings had realized my grandmother shouldn't be driving anymore, when my grandmother, all on her own, walked onto a car dealership lot and drove away with a brand new mini van. Knowing her as I did at the time, it's hard to imagine anyone selling something like that to her. But then, no one in the family was there to witness the transaction, how she presented herself and how hard a sale the salesperson made. All we knew was some salesperson sold a car to an elderly woman who clearly (to us) wasn't completely right in the head. I'm pretty sure one of my uncles gave a few people at the dealership the what for.
My grandmother would eventually be placed in a care home where her medical needs could be best met. I was in college hundreds of miles away. My mom and dad both worked full-time as did my mom's siblings. My aunt's attempt at having my grandmother live with my uncle and her hadn't worked out. My grandmother needed 24 hour care. I think I drove my mom crazy with my constant questions about Grandma's care. Chalk it up to too many classes about child and elder abuse, but I still worried.
As far as we know, nothing bad happened to my grandmother in terms of the type of care she received. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for some.
Gus is a cantankerous old man. He complained about everything and everyone--and loudly. He lived on his own, next door to private investigator Kinsey Millhone, and her landlord, Henry. Gus's only relative, a great niece, lived in New York. When he falls and breaks his hip, Kinsey and Henry come to his rescue, but he needs more care than they can provide.
The niece hires Solana Rojas, a nurse, to come in and check on her uncle. On the surface, Solana seems a perfect fit. She's experienced and willing and able to take care of the not always nice older man.
Not everything is at it seems, however. What Kinsey's surface background check failed to uncover was the fact that Solana Rojas is not, in fact, Solana Rojas. Nor is she the LVN she claims to be. Lest you think I am spoiling the book for you, this is information the reader is told upfront. The reader knows exactly the kind of person Solana is from the beginning, and she's not a nice person.
In a departure from her usual straight up first person narrative, Sue Grafton intersperses third person narratives about Solana throughout the book, offering the reader an inside look at what is going on behind Gus's closed doors and into the mind of a sociopath. Solana has been stealing identities for quite some time, preying on the elderly to earn a quick buck. She is the mother of a thirty-something year old son who isn't quite all there. He's never worked a day in his life and likes to use his fist to get his point across.
Kinsey senses something is off about Solana, but proving it is another matter. Solana is smart and cunning. She knows just how to hide her tracks and always seems a step ahead.
I really liked this book and yet it made my blood boil. I really--and I mean really-- didn't like Solana and yet she seemed to get the better of Kinsey at every turn. I wanted to reach into the book and strangle her, save Gus, and give Kinsey a hand.
For those who don't know, Kinsey is a private investigator in the fictional town of Santa Teresa in Southern California. She isn't too good with relationships and she's often stretching to make ends meet. She tried her hand as a cop once, which is how she ended up being in her current job. She isn't one who likes to take orders from anyone else.
Kinsey's landlord, Henry, an elderly gentleman, is ever present in T is for Trespass--and a good thing too! I adore him probably as much as Kinsey does. He has a possible love interest this time around, a woman I'm not too sure about.
I especially enjoyed the side stories running through T is for Trespass. Kinsey has to earn money after all. She is short on actual detective work and has been taking jobs serving notices, whether it be for court appearances or eviction notices. She's also working on a rather troublesome car accident case, looking into an injury claim in which a woman and her husband are suing another woman after they hit her car at an intersection. The only witness is proving to be rather elusive, but Kinsey is determined to track him down.
The series is set in the 1980's, a time when cell phones and computers aren't in common use. I particularly loved a scene in T is for Trespass when Kinsey is interviewing a computer repairman and he tells her she needs to get a computer. She asks him how much it would cost her and his reply, $10,000, was enough to shock me too.
I've been reading Sue Grafton's alphabet series for years and am quite invested in it. There is rarely anything flashy about Grafton's novels. She isn't one to take her stories over the top like so many crime fiction novels today. And the crime isn't always murder. They have a realistic vibe to them, something I especially love about these novels. Each book in the series can be read on their own.
I'd forgotten what a good writer Grafton is, how tight her plots can be and just how witty Kinsey is. This is a good addition to the series and I'm kicking myself now for taking so long to get to it. I am determined to catch up in the series this year (she's up to V). I used to read the books as soon as they came out, and it's one of the few series both my husband and I love.
You can learn more about Sue Grafton and her books on the author's website.
Source: I purchased a copy of T is for Trespass for my husband's and my reading pleasure.