“J is for Judgment” by Sue Grafton

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3.5 Water Towers

I always look forward to reading the next Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone series. Steady and true to the previous nine, “J is for Judgment” does not disappoint. A thoroughly enjoyable read that finally gives the reader a bit more information of Kinsey’s family background. As Kinsey struggles with the knowledge she is not alone in this world, she also heads back to work for an old friend.

Five years ago, Wendell Jaffe went missing off the coast of Baja. Wendell had been involved, with his partner, Carl Eckert, in a get rich quick “Ponzi” scheme going horribly wrong. Almost everyone felt Wendell had committed suicide rather than face the consequences.

Five years later the final life insurance payment of $500,000 has been made to Wendell’s wife, Dana. And almost simultaneously, by chance, the person (now retired) in charge of the insurance investigation for California Fidelity (CF) spotted a very alive Wendell in a small town in Mexico. He calls Mac Voorhies at CF to alert him that Wendell may be alive and well and living in Mexico.

Since CF fired her, Kinsey Millhone has settled in her new office at friend Lonnie Kingman’s law offices and is happy and busy. The visit from Mac (Kinsey’s supervisor at CF) surprises her, and the offer to work for CF to verify the report of the Wendell sighting is even more surprising. But Kinsey is happy to work for CF once again even if it is on the sly without the knowledge of the new boss who fired her.

In Mexico, Kinsey spends a few uneventful days. Deciding to relax a bit before heading back home, Kinsey spots Wendell with a woman by the hotel pool. With this nearly confirmed sighting the book picks up stream as several events bring Wendell back to the Santa Teresa area (specifically Perdido, a town about 30 miles south of Santa Teresa).

After Wendell’s disappearance, his younger son, Brian started to misbehave. Over time his behavior worsened and he ended up in jail. When Kinsey was in Mexico, Brian and a few others escaped from jail and killed an innocent woman. The hoodlums ended up in a shootout just over the border in Mexico. Brian survived but was re-arrested and sent back to Perdido. Kinsey lost Wendell but suspected he would show up in California…..a very good guess.

Wendell does show up and Kinsey meets him at his older son’s house. Wendell has plans for himself and Brian to turn themselves in to authorities in an effort to make things right for the first time in a long time.

But something goes wrong and Wendell, apparently, pulls another disappearing act.

Kinsey’s job with CF has been completed since Wendell is alive and CF has frozen Dana’s bank account to recover what is left of Wendell’s life insurance money. But Kinsey is not happy since she now needs to figure out what happened to Wendell this time.

Did Wendell disappear again? Is he dead? If he is dead, did he finally commit suicide? Was he murdered? If so, who did it?

You are just going to have to read the book to find out. But rest assured, Sue Grafton has given us another gem.

Interesting parallel plots involve Kinsey finding out that she has relatives (she was orphaned when she was 5 years old and raised by her Aunt who apparently left out a lot of family information). And Kinsey’s octogenarian landlord Henry is doing well now that his younger, also octogenarian, brother William has started dating Rosie, the owner of Kinsey’s favorite restaurant. Kinsey is finally becoming a richer character, as are Henry, Rosie, William and a few others like Jonah the policeman who Kinsey had a fling with a few books ago.

This series is a marathon…slow and steady wins. “T is for Trespass” is out in hardcover now. Six more to go with the last book scheduled to be “Z is for Zero”. I am looking forward to reading every one.

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