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Q is for Quarry    by Sue Grafton order for
Q is for Quarry
by Sue Grafton
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Celebrated mystery author Sue Grafton has now reached the letter "Q" in the alphabet. Long time fans always look forward to seeing what mystery-related term she will link with the letter. Even better is finding out how sleuth Kinsey Milhone and her private investigation practice in Santa Teresa is doing. Grafton has cleverly set all her books in the mid-1980's with each one following the last by only a short period of time. Therefore Kinsey does not have to age much beyond her mid-30's. With cell phones and detailed DNA profiles still years in the future, she also has to function as a real detective and not rely on more modern tools.

Q is for Quarry finds Kinsey working with two older detectives. Stacey Oliphant (retired and seriously ill) has always been frustrated at not being able to solve the murder of an unidentified young female back in 1969. His buddy Lieutenant, himself on medical leave, asks Kinsey to work with them to try and solve the old case. Each man, unbeknownst to the other, is doing this to help distract and cheer up his friend.

There are few clues as to the identity of the Jane Doe whose body was found stabbed and abandoned outside Santa Teresa. The true beauty of this book is how Kinsey and her cohorts methodically proceed to solve the mystery. The work is certainly not glamorous, but surely much more realistic than TV mysteries. Along the way, Kinsey and crew encounter many memorable characters, all skillfully drawn by Grafton, who also excels at plotting - readers will not feel as if a rabbit has been pulled out of the box when the murderer is revealed.

One of the best things about these mysteries is that they are reliably well-written. Some authors (we won't name any names) write increasingly weaker novels as they become more famous. It may be that editors are reluctant to do much editing on these big names, but their books often suffer from excess verbiage or just plain bad plots. This has not happened yet with the Grafton books. While fans may prefer certain ones over others, they are always well worth reading.

According to the Author's Note this book was inspired by a true case of a young woman found, as the Jane Doe in the novel, in August 1969 near Santa Barbara (purportedly the model for Santa Teresa). This case has never been solved and Grafton includes a forensic reconstruction of the real-life victim at the end of the book. Maybe this will stir some interest and generate information about her murder. Unfortunately she will probably not be as lucky as the fictional victim in having such a capable and dogged team investigating.

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