“I is for Innocent” by Sue Grafton
Rating: 4 Water Towers
The next time you look into the door peephole to see who is there, make sure you are not staring down the barrel of a gun.
Six years ago, Isabel Barney was home for the evening when someone appeared at her door. Isabel got up, and being a careful sort, looked out the peephole to see who was there. It was the last thing she ever did. The person at the door shot Isabel in the eyeball….. killing her instantly.
In “H”, Kinsey Millhone was let go from California Fidelity (CF) and has now, a few weeks later, found a new office in Attorney Lonnie Kingman’s office. Kinsey has done work for Lonnie in the past so it appears Kinsey has landed softly as I is for Innocent starts out.
Sunday evening, as Kinsey heads to her new office she was surprised to find Lonnie and his client, Kenneth Voigt, in the office. Kenneth Voigt had hired Lonnie to fire up a civil suit against David Barney who six years before was acquitted of the murder of Isabel Barney. Isabel was also Kenneth’s ex-wife, who Kenneth is still in love with. The week before the new civil trial is scheduled to begin, the PI hired by Lonnie, Morley Shine, has just died of a heart attack, and Kinsey is now involved.
Picking up the pieces of the investigation, with only a week to go, is a daunting task especially since Morley had an odd, chaotic, organization style. But, as Kinsey digs through the files she gradually uncovers the leads that Morley was following and is able to dig up more information to fill in the blanks (of which there are still many).
Since David Barney cannot be re-tried for murder, the only choice now is to sue him in civil court. Kinsey needs to find as much damaging information against David as she can since everyone is convinced that David was indeed Isabel’s killer.
Unfortunately for Lonnie, Kinsey’s investigation is not pointing toward David as the killer, so the entire civil case may be in jeopardy.
Like a good old fashioned mystery, the number of suspects increases as Kinsey carefully uncovers new facts via interviews and research.
Cast of Characters
Curtis McIntyre is a career criminal, and compulsive liar, who spends a great deal of time in jail or attempting to get back in jail. He visited the courthouse 6 years ago to watch the verdict come in on David (they met in jail), and claims that when David was acquitted, and was leaving the courtroom, David whispered to Curtis that he had just gotten away with murder. It is this revelation that lead Kenneth to start the civil suit, however tenuous that may be.
Simone Orr is Isabel’s sister. Simone still lives on Barney property in a “tiny house” that Isabel became famous for designing. Simone is much plainer than Isabel and less successful. A possible suspect even though it is clear Simone loved Isabel.
Peter Weidman is Isabel’s old boss at his architectural firm. Isabel was not an architect but had enormous talent for conceiving new and unique structures. The “tiny houses” she developed became and instant hit and Isabel became famous. While working for Peter, she met David Barney and they both left the firm to start their own business. This move led to the downfall of Peter’s firm. Peter, and his wife, Yolanda (who hated Isabel) are both suspects even though Peter clearly had feelings for Isabel and still does not hold her responsible for his companies demise.
Francesco Voigt is Kenneth wife now and six years ago. Their marriage was never wonderful since Kenneth never stopped loving Isabel, even in death. Francesco is a suspect.
Rhe and Tippy Parsons are mother and daughter. Rhe was Isabel’s best friend and Tippy considered Isabel her “Aunt”. It turns out that Tippy was a problem child (she is now in her early 20’s) becoming an alcoholic at age 10 and a very wild teenager. When Isabel was killed Tippy was in the depths of her problems as a Junior in High School and, as Kinsey found out, was involved in a hit and run that same evening. Tippy is a suspect.
The Right Clue
Sue Grafton is great at unraveling the mystery. At one point, Kinsey suspected that Morley may not have died a natural death. To prove or disprove this fact, Kinsey was advised to gather food, and other products that Morley may have ingested and have them tested. Morley was supposed to be on a diet, however, he regularly went to his office to down a few thousand calories of good old high fat food. One of these yummy delights was still in the garbage can and, when analyzed, was found to contain a poisonous mushroom ingredient.
Morley was murdered.
Unfortunately for Kinsey, she uncovers the same information that prompted the killer to poison Morley, and one evening a phone call by Curtis asking to meet her leads to Kinsey being attacked by the killer. The gun battle that ensues is very exciting.
“I is for Innocent” is the best Sue Grafton book I have read so far. This was an intriguing book that reveals the mystery one step at a time. The ending is quite satisfying. In fact, Kinsey is now working again for CF. Excellent.