June 01, 1998 12:00 PM

by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone is not one for long goodbyes. So when she separates from her boyfriend, the California sleuth takes the first job that comes along, heading off to sleepy Nota Lake to investigate the death of a local detective. All she knows is that the widow says he was terribly worried about something before his heart attack. Millhone works the case unenthusiastically for several days and is about to pack it in when a guy in a ski mask drives by one night, points two fingers like the barrel of a gun and plugs her with imaginary bullets. Then the fun begins.

The plot of the 14th novel in Grafton’s alphabet series is engaging enough (even if she tightens the Noose too quickly at the end). But the real pleasure is hanging out with Kinsey, a soft-boiled shamus in a hard-bitten world, who worries that the people she interrogates are not dressing warmly enough and feels her derriere growing with every morsel she eats. She’s no pushover, though. When the guy in the ski mask bears down on her, Kinsey responds by flippin’ him the bird. (Holt, $25)

Bottom Line: Diverting whodunit, but not letter-perfect

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