Picks and Pans Review: "j" Is for Judgment

updated 06/07/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/07/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sue Grafton

Like dozens of male detectives before her, Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is an eccentric, a cynic, a loner. But her observations are unerringly (and refreshingly) female. Breaking into the hotel room of a couple she is following, for example, Millhone immediately notes, "The woman turned out to be the sort who unpacked all her suitcases, probably within minutes of checking in..."

The 10th letter in Grafton's alphabetical series finds Millhone back working for California Fidelity Insurance, trying to prove that a man presumed drowned is still alive. At stake is a $500,000 life insurance payment—a payment that means a lot to the barely functioning family Wendell Jaffee left behind.

Though the core mystery is not as interesting as other cases Millhone has handled, Grafton's witty commentary and deft attention to domestic details make "J" as satisfying as its predecessors. The real twist this time is that, in the course of her investigation, Millhone meets up with some long-lost relatives she would rather not have found. By tale's end, they are still hovering, threatening to pop up again. Could "K" be for Kin? (Henry Holt, $21.95)"

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