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J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries, No. 10) Mass Market Paperback – December 2, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 226 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her 10th alphabet adventure, southern California PI Kinsey Milhone is working again for California Fidelity, navigating her way through a plot-driven tale that will remind readers of her earliest appearances, despite Grafton's deft introduction of new material. Shady financier Wendell Jaffe has recently been decreed dead, five years after his real estate empire collapsed and he disappeared from his beloved 35-foot ketch off the coast, an apparent suicide. California Fidelity has just paid his widow $500,000. But then Jaffe is spotted in Mexico with another woman. Kinsey's investigation lands her in some tough spots--such as a drunken stranger's hotel room where she pretends to be a hooker--gets her shot at and leads to a dramatic resolution at sea. It also introduces her to a genealogist who requires Kinsey to revise her notion of herself as an orphan alone in the world. While maintaining full control of her plot's variously colored threads, many of which are tied to Jaffe's family (his 18-year-old son is on the lam from a murder charge), Grafton cameos such familiar characters as Kinsey's octogenarian landlord Henry, his older brother William, and Rose, the neighborhood bar owner. But the spotlight remains on Kinsey who, without a love interest to distract her, sticks to the case at hand and tries, with limited success, to assimilate the existence of a not too distant family, whom readers will likely learn more of in "K." 500,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild selection; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Private investigator Kinsey Millhone, the author's tough, tenacious, California-based heroine, has taken on a freelance job for her ex-employer, California Fidelity Insurance. One of their agents, on vacation in a small Mexican hotel, is sure he recognized Wendell Jaffe, a hotshot businessman who'd vanished from his boat at sea years before, leaving behind a suicide note, a clutch of cheated investors, a penniless wife, two young sons, and a partner, Carl Eckert, who wound up in jail. Five years later, just a few months ago, with Jaffe now officially dead, wife Dana had collected a half million from Fidelity. They'd like it back.... Kinsey flies to Mexico and finds her quarry, who's now living with a woman named Renata and is calling himself Dean DeWitt Huff--and who disappears again almost at once. Kinsey's certain the recent widely reported criminal acts of his son Brian have pulled Jaffe back to the US. In California, Kinsey's on the trail again--talking to Dana, to Carl Eckert, now out of jail, to police detectives involved in the original investigation, and to Renata, who, it turns out, owns a waterfront house near Kinsey's home base of Santa Teresa. Even as she chases clues in the present, chunks of Kinsey's own family history intrude, threatening her hard-won loner persona. Jaffe surfaces for the last time in the slightly hokey finale. A tangled, rambling story that's constantly in motion but generates little passion, heat, or tension. Solidly readable but minus the compelling edge of Grafton's best. (First printing of 500,000; Literary Guild Triple Selection for July) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312945272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312945275
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

New York Times-bestselling author Sue Grafton is published in twenty-eight countries and twenty-six languages--including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. Books in her alphabet series, begun in 1982, are international bestsellers with readership in the millions. And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Grafton has earned new respect for the mystery form. Readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling prowess. She has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America (2009) and is a recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award (2004).

Sue Grafton has been married to Steve Humphrey for more than thirty years, and they divide their time between Montecito, California, and Louisville, Kentucky, where she was born and raised. Grafton, who has three children and four grandchildren, loves cats, gardens, and good cuisine.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"J is for Judgment," Sue Grafton's 10th Kinsey Millhone mystery, left me with a bit of what I call the cotton candy syndrome. I started with "A is for Alibi" less than a year ago, and the relative proximity in time between my reading each of the others through "J" has given me a panoramic perspective over them. I have enjoyed Grafton's series more than any other, largely because of the edgy heroine, but I found this installment to be one of the weaker links in an otherwise outstanding series.
I found the first quarter of the book to be highly promising. Kinsey is hired to identify a man spotted in Mexico who may be Wendell Jaffe, recently proclaimed dead years after an apparent boating accident where the body was never found. This section of the book contains one of the funniest moments I've encountered in the series, showing Kinsey as she's never been before.
As Kinsey returns to Santa Teresa for the last three quarters of the book, she encounters the people in Jaffe's life--most of whom are excrutiatingly boring. The primary mystery question posed at the beginning is solved fairy early on, leaving not much left to answer and Jaffe's sniveling family to play out their soap opera.
There is a side story that I found much more interesting than the main plot in the second half. We find out something crucial about Kinsey's mysterious family background. Readers of other books in the series are reminded each book that Kinsey's folks died when she was very young leaving her to be raised by a maiden aunt. In "J is for Judgment," Grafton gives us a deeper look into the tragedy of Kinsey's early years.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't understand how I can like one of this series so well and then dislike so much. I really liked "I" but I did not even want to finish "J". I did because I thought it had to get better, guess what, it did not. In "J" Kinsey is hired to try to find a man that has been dead for five years. He had been spotted and the Insurance Company wants him found so they can try to recover the half-million dollars in life insurance they have paid out. The man is of course alive and Kinsey finds him and then he is gone again. Along the way she finds out she does have some cousins she was unaware of. I really do like Kinsey Millhone and her human traits. She is not superwoman, which I like. Have "K" bought so guess I will read it. Hope it is better.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
For the longest time, I refused to read these "alphabet" mysteries. I thought they would be sappy stories and you'd solve the mystery by page 4. Sorta like a Nancy Drew book. A couple weeks ago, I decided to buy the first book in the series and just see what everyone was talking about. Well, I just finished "J" and I have "K" waiting for me. Kinsey is my kind of girl - a wise cracking, independent, intelligent lady. Funny, too. And I still couldn't figure out who done it until I got towards the end of the book. Susan Grafton is a great mystery writer and I laugh out loud at a lot of the wise cracks.I don't know what I'll do when she gets to "Z"!!! Perhaps, she can start on the numbers...... Buy anyone of these books - you won't regret it!!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
At first this book seemed to be very interesting, with Kinsey hunting down Wendall Jaffee in Mexico, and stumbling upon him. But after the first part of the book, too many characters were introduced that had promise of being interesting but weren't explored up to their potential. It was almost distracting to build up these characters, only to let their stories lag or not close up at all at the end. For example, what becomes of the remaining Jaffees, especially Brian? And what does Kinsey decide about meeting her long lost family? I also was disturbed by how carefree Wendall was when he met Kinsey, not the slightest bit scared or afraid of what she would do. Also Harris Brown, just offers her up info without being afraid she will go to the police. I think it was unrealistic how much information these people just gave up to Kinsey. It was a decent read though.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first Sue Grafton book I have run into, and will not be the last. The plot is a little over-complicated, and the ending a little on the philosophical side for an action/mystery read of this sort. But the central character, Kinsey Millhone, is the most realistically drawn, convincing and sympathetic female private dick I have EVER run into! V.I.Warshawski, go jump in a lake! I'll never resort to your mealy-mouthed politically correct milk-toast kind of non-humanist feminism again! Since I understand this is not by any means one of Grafton's best, I will have to investigate the other books of the series. Thank you, Sue Grafton, for a female protagonist that doesn't embarrass readers of the same gender.
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Format: Paperback
As soon as I read her earliest books, Sue Grafton became one of my favorite writers of light, straight, credible detective fiction. She can be a terrific storyteller. After being badly disappointed by the skimpy, disorganized "G" and "H" stories, but buoyed by the "I" book, I was looking forward to "J," which promised a very interesting tale. Unfortunately, I was disappointed again (though not as badly as I had been by "G" and "H" or as I would be with "L"). It is difficult to get a handle on exactly why. The book is quite a mish-mash.

Grafton opens the "J" book with a complex and fascinating premise, even if it was not exactly original (for example, see John D. MacDonald's "The Empty Copper Sea") -- a slick, near-bust land developer/real estate wheeler-dealer disappears under mysterious circumstances, is presumed dead, yet is spotted elsewhere years later. The early part of the book is interesting, with some good attention to detail. But the book never really takes seriously and runs with its opening plot idea.

Instead, the book strings it out for a while, deteriorates into a series of subplots (about the kids, about the wife, about the cop, about the partner ...) that lead nowhere, and then diddles away any life the story has left with a let-down ending involving a marginal character with a confused motive. This is not helped at all by a last-minute attempt to suggest that the person was a master criminal after all, despite what appears to be impetuous, emotional, out-of-control, lunatic behavior. It leaves the reader wondering why it was worth slogging through all of the pointless personal subplots and complicated original premise.

The book's excellent opening premise seems to be used merely as a gimmick to kick-start an aimless, pointless story.
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