V is for Vengeance: A Kinsey Millhone Novel

by Sue Grafton

Hardcover, 2011

Call number





Marian Wood Books/Putnam (2011), Edition: First Edition, 448 pages


California PI Kinsey Millhone investigates the death of Audrey Vance, a woman she helped arrest for shoplifting, and antagonizes just about everyone, including Audrey's fiancé, several loan sharks, a stone-cold killer, and a hapless burglar who knows more than is healthy for him.

Media reviews

The Toronto Star
Here we are all the way up to V, and Sue Grafton is still springing narrative surprises. Grafton is of course the author of the series featuring the California private eye Kinsey Millhone. The titles for the books run through the alphabet, beginning almost 30 years ago with A is for Alibi. Now, in
Show More
V is for Vengeance, Grafton performs the unthinkable by presenting readers with a portrait of the book’s major villain that is much more sympathetic than condemning. The story begins with Millhone in the lingerie section of the local Nordstrom’s. That’s unlikely territory for casual Kinsey who usually confines her clothes shopping to low-end chain stores. In Nordstrom’s, she spots a 50ish woman who is carrying out slick pieces of shoplifting among the store’s silk lounge wear. In swift order, Kinsey alerts store security who pack the woman off to jail from which she’s soon released on bail. Next day, the shoplifter’s body is found at the bottom of a very high bridge, apparently a suicide. Suffering from a guilty conscience over her role in the woman’s death, Kinsey decides to dig into the story behind the so-called suicide. Sure enough, she finds plenty of fishy people and puzzling events. All of this is usual in the Millhone books. Indeed, familiarity in concept and characters makes one of the series’ great comforts. So we relax into the byplay involving Kinsey’s octogenarian landlord Henry and Henry’s equally aged but spry siblings. These people, as supporting characters, are unfailingly entertaining. In the new book, brother William’s disquisition on the value of attending the visitation and funeral of a complete stranger is alone worth the price of admission. Meanwhile, as the cozy story of Kinsey’s life and investigation unfolds, all of it told in her first-person voice, Grafton drops in third-person chapters that trace the tale of a sinister but attractive man named Lorenzo Dante. This fellow happens to be the secretive capo of the mob as it exists in Kinsey’s hometown of Santa Teresa and environs. Dante is rich, but has problems. His father, the retired capo, is blind to forces that threaten the mob’s existence. Dante’s younger brother is a psycho killer. Dante himself has been long planning an escape from this turmoil into an extravagantly funded retirement far from big time crime. Though Kinsey’s crime solving has its fascinations, the reader becomes more deeply involved in Dante’s dilemmas. Will he evade his own mob’s clutches? And what about a woman who enters the plot, the wife of a wealthy lawyer? Is she part of Dante’s escape package? Gradually, these pressing questions upstage Kinsey’s adventures. Who, at this advanced stage in the Millhone saga, would have imagined such a delicious turn of events?
Show Less
1 more
Library Journal
Kinsey plays a smaller role in this story, which may not please some of her many fans, but Grafton's pioneering sleuth is as clever and witty as ever.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lkernagh
This installment showcases Kinsey at her peak of prickly, feisty behaviour, to the point where Kinsey even manages to find herself at odds with her client. Probably not the best way to retain a client, but I guess when you take on a case mainly out of a sense of guilt, one can be a bit prickly when
Show More
said client comes across as rather narrow-minded. I always enjoy the “trips back in time” to California circa 1980s. I get the impression that Grafton enjoys researching and depicting the time period and has fun with it, given here attention to detail. For example, I loved how at one point she has Kinsey listening to the radio in her car while on a stake out and the DJ announces Whitney Houston’s “Where do broken hearts go” has just overtaken Billy Ocean for top spot in the charts (something that did occur in real life the week ending April 23, 1988) and has Kinsey musing over whether or not that is a good thing,. ;-) I find that Grafton always does a great job researching areas of crime. I found the detailed information about organized shoplifting syndicates in this installment to be fascinating reading. Supporting characters like Kinsey’s former love interest Cheney Phillips, landlord Henry Pitts, his brother William and wife Rosie are included in this installment but their involvement is kept to a minimum.

Grafton continues to flex her writing prowess and treats the reader to a main plot and not one, but two subplots to sink their reading chops into. While the story does have its slow areas – I felt that one of the subplots received more attention than is warranted and the head of the crime ring doesn’t seem to have the “grit” I would expect of a Mafia boss – but overall, I feel that Grafton has reached new heights with this installment in her ability to present a well written and absorbing crime read, and a story that delivers a satisfying resolution for the various plots.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cathyskye
First Line: Phillip Lanahan drove to Vegas in his 1985 Porsche 911 Carrerra Cabriolet, a snappy little red car his parents had given him two months before, when he graduated from Princeton.

Phillip is a typical young man who believes he's ten feet tall and bullet proof. He also thinks he's a
Show More
first-rate gambler, even though he owes thousands to a loan shark. If you're under the impression that his story doesn't end well, I won't try to change your mind.

From Phillip's story, we move to Kinsey Millhone, who's just celebrated her thirty-eighth birthday by being on the receiving end of two black eyes and a busted nose. (Who says trying to collar a shoplifter is easy work?) But this particular shoplifter winds up jumping off a local bridge, and Kinsey's gut tells her there's a lot more to the shoplifter's story than overwhelming guilt at being caught.

The story moves on in alternating points of view as each of the main characters is introduced-- a man who, bereft at the loss of his fiancée, wants answers; a straying husband who plays by his own rules; a dirty cop who believes he'll never get caught; a wife whose life is about to implode; and seemingly at the very center of the web, a baleful gangster and a professional shoplifting ring.

Professional shoplifting rings don't cross the minds of most citizens, but they do exist, as anyone who's worked retail for any length of time can tell you. My personal favorite, although they weren't part of a ring, were the elderly couple who came into my store almost everyday. The wife was confined to a wheelchair, and her husband would push her throughout the store, stopping to chat and laugh with the clerks. Most of us were shocked when they were arrested and we learned that the wife was sitting on top of a big empty compartment that they were filling each and every time they came in the store. Once something like that happens, you begin looking at customers in a very different way!

Even if you don't have personal experience of shoplifters, this will be an interesting part of the plot as Kinsey investigates and uncovers more and more facts about it.

I also appreciated the alternating points of view in the book. There is a strong cast of characters in V is for Vengeance, and Grafton's letting them tell their own stories really lets readers get to know them and form their own opinions about each one. Don't set too much store on your impressions, though. Grafton throws in a few twists so you may not know the characters as well as you think.

A strong, well-paced plot and interesting characters made sure that I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I may have come late to Kinsey's party (having read only three of the books), but at least I've finally arrived!
Show Less
LibraryThing member dhaupt
The year is 1988, Ronald Regan is President, the soviets are warring in Afghanistan and Sonny Bono is Mayor of Palm Springs. On the radio Frank Zappa sang Once Upon a Time and Hall & Oates were singing “Everything your heart desires and Kinsey Millhone private detective turns 38, she’s given a
Show More
gift that’s appreciation isn’t understood until later. Come with her as she takes us back and reflects on this case, the people involved and her vexing “gift”.
While shopping Kinsey spots and helps apprehend one of a pair of shoplifters and is surprised to learn a few days later that the thief has apparently committed suicide. She finds herself further embroiled in the situation when she takes the dead woman’s fiancée on as a client and he doesn’t want to believe what the evidence shows. But the evidence doesn’t begin to expose what’s really going on and Kinsey soon learns that the puzzle pieces she’s given in relation to this case only leads to more questions, puts her in more danger and leads her to some very unsavory situations.
V is for vivid descriptive narrative, V is for vivacious some charming some sinister characters, V is for Victory when it comes to this superbly talented author hitting another home run. Ms. Grafton has never been better at her game than with V is for Vengeance. This is a fast paced, edge of your seat page turner. It’s also more than a mystery/thriller, there’s a love story, a crime drama and a history lesson in our recent past. She brings us star quality characters who never cease to amuse, entertain or scare us out of our wits. She uses a dialogue that is easy to read as we follow the clues she drops like bread crumbs, but have a hard time piecing together until the very end. Her plot is a mixture of connect the dots and crime magazine where to get to the solution there’s always a bit of head scratching first, but the end always justifies the means.
So if you’re looking for something a little deeper than holiday novels, a little darker than average and a whole lot better than anything else out there, here it is.
It also makes a great stocking stuffer and it’s easy to wrap and will fit under any tree.
Thank you Ms. Grafton and even though you’ve made us wait two years, it was definitely worth the wait.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
recommended for: for everyone who’s read A through U, naturally (read all of them and all in order)

Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m still in love with Henry. It’s sad that I’m now getting closer to being old enough for him, though thankfully, not quite, and not even in the approximately
Show More
8 years when Z will be out.

I was hoping his departure and temporary absence wouldn’t be long/too many pages in the book, but there was not enough Henry, but it was nice to see Cheney again.

Very satisfying complex plot with many characters, which I never doubted would be all neatly tied together. Just brilliant!

I love these books. I especially appreciate how I can root for some of the “bad guys” and detest some of the “good guys” and how nothing is in black and white but is in many shades of gray; this has gotten more and more true as the series has gone on.

I love Kinsey and I fervently hope Henry is a large part of the last 4 books in the series. The use made of Henry’s empty house for such a very few hours and the subplot with Nell, well I’d rather have had Henry have a bigger role here. But when he was there, in any way, I loved him just as much.

The books in this series, despite not really being cozy mysteries and containing some violence and danger, are some of my all time best comfort reads. I can’t wait for W, X, Y, and Z.

This book was not my absolute favorite but it was excellent, and it continues the trend of the series overall getting better and better.
Show Less
LibraryThing member James_Patrick_Joyce
Unfortunately, I'm experiencing an ambivalence in my appreciation for Grafton's Kinsey Millhone Mysteries, nowadays. And it's because of a marked change in Grafton's style, staring with "S is for Silence".

From Alibi through Ricochet, the novels are Kinsey's first person tales, covering various
Show More
cases. Great! I love Kinsey's voice. I've enjoyed the experience. Starting with "S", though, Grafton has decided to do a mix. Some chapters are Kinsey and some chapters are other characters who are involved. And I frequently don't care as much about those character's journeys.

It's worse, though. The non-Kinsey chapters (NKC) tend to cover background, character growth, etc.. To the extent that I feel less like I'm reading subplots and more like I'm reading two or three different novellas, tied together (loosely, in some cases) by a murder. And the murder just isn't sufficient to make all those back stories and side details worth the effort.

It's worse, still, though. If you took all those NKC's out, it seems like you'd have a book around the length of the earlier books, which were tighter and faster-paced. Essentially, most of the new stuff feels like padding. And I get the strong feeling that, if I skipped all NKC's, I would still have a fully-functional mystery novel. I really get the feeling that Sue Grafton is tiring of Kinsey and wants to write other, non-mystery, stuff... and I wish she would. I wish she'd finish off the Kinsey books as straight-forward first-person mysteries, as they were and write other, more mainstream, novels, to satisfy that urge. I can't say that I'd read them, but I can say that I'd be much happier with the Alphabet books.

I miss the old Kinsey books. I miss the pacing. I miss sinking into Kinsey's world. And I can't do that, when I'm constantly being ping-ponged amongst the rest.

I know that if the Alphabet series had always been like this, I'd have never gone beyond A or B. And I'm kind of glad there are only a couple left.

And that makes me kind of sad.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Romonko
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is getting better and more sophisticated with each book. She states that her books are a long time in the making, and it shows. I find her books complex and the plots are intricate. The characters, both the returning, and non-returning, are very well-developed. In this
Show More
book Kinsey finds herself shopping for underwear in an upscale shop, and she encounters what she determines is a very sophisticated shoplifting ring. The encounter puts her in harm's way with some very unsavoury bad guys (and gals). I like the fact that Ms. Grafton has her heroine firmly ensconced in the eighties. All the wonderful eighties excesses are there for our enjoyment. And we have Kinsey who is one of my favourite fictional female detectives. I have read each book in this wonderful alphabet series and have never been disappointed. This book is particularly good because we see a much less-impulsive Kinsey who appears to have matured a great deal. I personally can't wait for W, and I know that Ms. Grafton will take her time with it until she has it exactly right.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Kingray
Sue is still writing one great book! Love her characters and how they fit into her plots. One of her best yet. Can't wait for the next one.
LibraryThing member Anntstobbs
Kinsey Milhone is caught up in a series of burglaries, shoplifters, mobsters and vendettas. She catches a woman shoplifting in a store and turns her in. The woman then jumps (?) from a bridge. Kinsey is asked by the woman's fiance to clear her name but the story gets deeper and deeper as mobsters
Show More
get into the picture. A good read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bitsy08
In the past week, I've read Janet Evanovich's "Explosive Eighteen" and Sue Grafton's "V is for Vengeance." Of the two, Grafton's is much more enjoyable. One writer has grown; the other has not. While Evanovich seems to write the same story over and over, to my mind Grafton seems to have grown. I
Show More
believe this is the best of hers and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was nice to read about other characters and have them developed in such a way that we made a decision as to whether we liked them or not, whether we were pulling for them or not. The so-called bad guy in this book turned out to be a person I liked and was pulling for. You'll have to read the book to see if he came out ahead.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Kathy89
Starts with a young man with a gambling habit borrowing $10,000 from a loan shark and losing that money and dodging the collector and the consequences. We then shift to Kinsey shopping for lingerie at Nordstrom's and spotting a shoplifter and reporting it. She later finds out that the shoplifter
Show More
supposedly commited suicide by jumping of a bridge. The fiance of women wants to hire Kinsey believing that that she was innocent and was set up.

Lot's of interesting sideline stories circling the main plot and tying up nicely at the end.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mldg
Well done. I particularly enjoyed the Nora storyline in this book. Kinsey comes out alright though a little beat up in end. All the loose ends neatly tied up.
LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
Kinsey sees a woman shoplifting lingerie from Nordstroms, notifies a sales clerk and watches as the woman, Audrey Vance, gets apprehended. She's soon found dead, an apparent suicide off the local bridge.

Lorenzo Dante, Jr., a loanshark loans 22 year old Phillip Lanahan money to gamble in Las Vegas.
Show More
When he loses it all, Dante's younger brother Cappi is told to deal with it. He throws Lanahan off the hotel balcony.

Nora's access to cash is controlled by her husband. To avoid asking him, she turns to Danta for a loan. When she realizes that he's a loanshark, she decides against it.

When Audrey's fiance asks Kinsey to look into her death, she obliges. Kinsey, via Sue Grafton, unites the above activities into a cohesive story in V is for Vengeance. Kinsey is a lovable character, as is her landlord Henry and his brother William and William's wife Rosie. However, Grafton has kept family and friends out of this book. Henry is away tending to an ill sister. Kinsey's cousins sadly don't make an appearance. William and Rosie are more marginal characters than usual. However, it's still a good Kinsey Millhone mystery.
Show Less
LibraryThing member asomers
As always it was worth the wait!
LibraryThing member julyso
I always enjoy Kinsey Milhone and I loved V is for Vengeance!!! I will be so sad to see this series end:(
LibraryThing member pcboo
Not my favorite Kinsey Millhone book, but still engaging.
LibraryThing member tututhefirst
Unlike some writers who get boring and formulaic and whose writing deteriorates as a series progresses, Sue Grafton continues to delight with fresh plots, well-developed characters, and excellent writing.

In this episode, many of the auxiliary characters we have come to love have very small parts:
Show More
Henry, Rosie, and William put in only cameo or background appearances. The story centers around Kinsey's inadvertent witnessing of a shoplifting, and the perpetrator's subsequent questionable suicide. Hired by the decedent's "fiancé" to prove it was not a suicide, Kinsey suddenly finds the situation dissolving into a very sticky mess, involving a big-hearted loan shark, dirty cops, stereotypical big brawn small brained thugs, unhappily married couples, etc etc. All the players stories come together to produce an ending that many readers may not be pleased with, and frankly, I'm not sure the resolution is one I feel morally ok with, but given the choices, Grafton's denouement is solid and convincing.

Grafton has several different points of view running concurrently, a fairly new device for her writing, and she does it well. In addition to watching Kinsey's investigation, we watch the lives of one of the "bad guys" and another story line of one of the disaffected spouses and see how their actions and emotions influence what happens as the story progresses. I haven't read one of these in awhile, and I don't remember previous volumes being quite this involved. The story line while complex, flows well and Judy Kaye continues to do a great narrating job to keep us listening to the audio (in fact I took the long way home today just so I could finish one of the discs.)

In this series, "V" is every bit as good as "A" was. In fact, if I had time, I'd love to start this series over from the beginning and read them again. For new readers, the best part is that they can be read as stand alones and there's no need to feel you need to go back to the beginning. Grab any of them, and be prepared to meet a smart, sassy, level headed private investigator who is one of my favorite characters. She knows when to involve the police, when to say "no" to stupidity, and generally shows us a professional who generally doesn't participate in activities beyond her scope. A great way to start the New Year.
Show Less
LibraryThing member madamepince
OK. Maybe I'm getting tired of the series.
LibraryThing member sgsain
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone Mysteries just gets better and better. This one starts off with a young man with a gambling problem and a sizable loan from a loan shark being thrown off a parking garage roof. Then the book shifts two years ahead to present time in Kinsey's world where she blows the
Show More
whistle on a shoplifting team at a local department store. Lo and behold one of the shoplifters is then found dead under a bridge. How these two events are connected is the engine that propels the plot. The story is told through three characters--Kinsey, the loan shark, and a socialite all of whom are looking for vengeance in some form. Grafton skillfully weaves the three threads and embellishes with some colorful characters to create a satisfying read. Can't wait for W.
Show Less
LibraryThing member susanamper
Better than her most recent alphabet books. Kinsey Millhone gets involved in a case about a shop lifting ring. There's a B story about a gangster and a trophy wife--unlike I've seen in other Grafton books. A little mystery a little romance. A good read.
LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
Been reading Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone books since the 1980s and still enjoy them immensely. The year is 1988 and the world is still pre-internet and cell phone. Kinsey still tracks thieves down using her wits and the local library. This time she is investigating the apparent suicide of Audrey
Show More
Vance, a woman whom she caught shoplifting 2 days before her "suicide". Her fiance hires Kinsey to prove that she wasn't a thief and didn't commit suicide which leads Ms. Millhone to an organized retail theft ring and ultimately to Lorenzo Dante. Very enjoyable as always.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Beamis12
This book started out relatively slowly, at least for me, with Kinsey on the outskirts of the story, at least for the first 100 pages or so. Many different threads of the story than began to come together with Kinsey taking a more active role. Considering Grafton is now on "V" she manages to keep
Show More
her story lines interesting and well written, and her characters fresh. Entertaining and well written, dreading the thought that she will soon be on "Z'.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SamM4
This installment was a bit of a departure from previous books in terms of style. Still good, but maybe not as good as previous outings.
LibraryThing member Jenners26
Brief Description: Kinsey Millhone is back (and still stuck in the 1980s). This time, the story hinges on Kinsey’s accidental involvement in a shoplifting ring that leads to more dangerous people and a complicated web of lies and deceit. As with some of the latest books in the series, the
Show More
narrative is not just Kinsey’s alone; we’re also privy to the thoughts and deeds of a Santa Teresa crime “kingpin” and a bored rich housewife

My Thoughts: I’ve read every Kinsey Millhone book since A Is For Alibi so I’m not going to stop now. However, I don’t look forward to the books as I once did, and I just wish Kinsey could have more of a personal life and/or progress out of the 1980s. Still, Grafton is doing better with this series than many other series that go on for extended lengths of time (cough Janet Evanovich cough). By this point, you pretty much know what you’re going to get so that is all I have to say about this.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SalemAthenaeum
A spiderweb of dangerous relationships lies at the heart of V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton's daring new Kinsey Millhone novel.

A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to
Show More
splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.

V: Victim. Violence. Vengeance.
Show Less
LibraryThing member magentaflake
not one of her better books.


Lefty Award (Nominee — 2012)




0399157867 / 9780399157868
Page: 0.6774 seconds