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Next-door neighbor finds the dirt in Grafton's latest

Identity theft and elder abuse are Sue Grafton's themes in T Is for Trespass.

By William McKeen, Special to the Times
Published January 6, 2008


It was Bruce Springsteen who said, "From small things, Mama, big things one day come."

He might have been talking about a Sue Grafton book. There are no dead bodies on the first page, no series of grisly unsolved killings to propel you through the story. The mysteries arise from commonplace things: unopened mail in a Dumpster, unexpected tranquility from a grumpy old man, a sudden change in property values in a quiet, stable neighborhood.

Those are the sorts of things that pique Kinsey Millhone's interest. The main character in Grafton's alphabet books (A Is for Alibi, B Is for Burglar, etc.) is not a sleuth in the usual crime-novel sense, which makes her a much more approachable character.

This time, Kinsey finds mystery right next door. Her neighbor Gus puts the crank in cranky. When he takes a fall, his niece makes a whirlwind visit and hires a private-duty nurse. She asks Kinsey to check the woman's credentials. Problem solved, the niece returns to New York and Gus begins his recovery.


When Kinsey did her background check on Solana Rojas, the nurse came out clean as a whistle. But it turns out that the woman going by that name is someone else.

Hired by well-meaning children to care for aging parents, she drugs her patients into stupor and methodically drains their bank accounts. Unfortunately for her, when she picked Gus as her next victim, she didn't count on his nosy next-door neighbor.

Though it's set in the 1980s, the book's identity-theft theme has contemporary resonance. We don't miss a few other contemporary things -- especially cell phones, one of those modern gizmos that dilute much of the people-in-peril drama inherent in mystery novels. Oh, for the good old days when help was not just a speed-dial button away.

William McKeen is the chairman of the journalism department at the University of Florida.


T Is for Trespass
By Sue Grafton
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 387 pages, $26.95


[Last modified January 3, 2008, 10:45:42]

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