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"L" is for Lawless (A Kinsey Millhone Mystery, Book 12) Hardcover – September 15, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Both new readers and old fans will welcome this 12th Kinsey Milhone adventure in the "A" is for Alibi series by Sue Grafton. In this case, Kinsey agrees to do a favor for a friend of a friend and gets herself into so much trouble that she promises at the outset never to do such a thing again without careful consideration.

Henry Pitt, her longtime landlord asks her to help a fellow neighbor find evidence that his grandfather served in the military during the Second World War. With such proof, the man can be decently buried, courtesy of the U.S. government. It seems such a simple thing, but with Kinsey, it rarely is. Before long she finds herself entangled with an eccentric and quarrelsome family as well as a long lost buddy who has turned up just in time to get himself beaten up in a robbery attempt of the alleged veteran's apartment. It seems there is a reason the Armed Services have no record of the dead man's service. Kinsey sets out to determine what he might have been doing instead of fighting against the Japanese and why someone might think his shabby apartment worth a burgle.

Typical of the series, the mystery is not the central point of the story, but rather a starting point for Kinsey to become embroiled in a suspenseful (and delightful) search-and-rescue operation, usually against her better judgement. In this case, a gun-toting, arthritic octogenarian and revelations of the inner workings of bargain-rate motels are all part of the adventure. This is an easy and enjoyable read, and a solid addition to Grafton's string of alphabetical hits. --K.A. Crouch

From Publishers Weekly

Bemused, beleaguered and begrimed, Southern California's premier PI, Kinsey Millhone leaves her hometown of Santa Teresa in an adventure (her 12th in the alphabet series) that begins straightforwardly enough but quickly twists into a knotted string of untruths. While getting ready for the Thanksgiving Day wedding between a local tavern keeper and the elder brother of her landlord, Kinsey agrees to help the family of recently deceased neighborhood WWII vet, Johnnie Lee, find out why the military has no record of his service. Soon after Kinsey has finished looking (fruitlessly) through his papers, Lee's rooms are burgled, and Ray Rawson, who claims he is an old friend recently arrived in Santa Teresa unaware of Lee's death, is beaten up. Kinsey soon finds herself on a plane bound for Florida, in possession of only the clothes she's wearing and her purse( with an extra toothbrush), trailing a young pregnant woman in possession of a duffel bag spirited from Lee's home. On a stopover in Dallas/Fort Worth, Kinsey sleuths disguised as a hotel maid dusting baseboards ("tough to picture the boy detectives doing this," she reflects), meets the increasingly unreliable Rawson again and encounters yet another figure from Lee's past, a violent, vengeful psychopath. While gradually sorting out the connections among this cast, Kinsey travels to Louisville, where Rawson's 80-something mother proves her mettle and Kinsey, determining that lawless, in this case, is neither adjective nor collective noun, unravels a decades-old mystery. 750,000 first printing; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (September 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805019375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805019377
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,595 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: Mass Market Paperback
Other reviewers have compared this one to "H." They're right. This is an "on the road with the bad guys" adventure. No real mystery here, and other than a few interesting scenes, not much worthy of note.
The supporting cast that has been weaved through the other novels is noticably absent from this book. Maybe they were working on other projects. The book suffers from this, mainly because the replacement players are not nearly as compelling or, frankly, fun.
By the time Kinsey ends up in Kentucky, you will find yourself saying "Who cares? Get back to Santa Teresa."
All in all, it was a disappointing read, annoying so because my prior experience with these books means that you cannot skip the bad ones.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is another good story in the line of alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton. Her few "detours" from great writing in previous "letters" seem to have been a minor bump in the road and she now returns to a good plot and strong characters.

I have to admit that one of my favorite characters in this series is Henry Pitt, Kinsey Millhone's landlord and friend. I enjoyed the Henry who wrote crossword puzzles and tried them out on Kinsey before he sent them in for publication. I enjoyed the Henry who always had something baking in his kitchen. And many times I have wondered why some sexy senior citizen hasn't snagged this wonderful catch of a man!

This story gives us a little more insight into Henry than we've seen in the past. Henry convinces Kinsey to help a friend of his on a simple matter - she needs to show that Henry's friend served in the military during World War II so he can be buried as a veteran. Such a simple request and it should have a simple solution, but as we've seen with Kinsey in the past, nothing is an easy task, so the plot thickens...

The family of the deceased is too busy fighting among themselves to be much help to Kinsey. Then an old friend shows up and gets attacked at the dead guy's apartment. Once again we're on a race to see what's around the next corner for Kinsey and to find out why the government has no record of this veteran serving his country.

There's a little bit of mystery, but more suspense in this book. And more laughs than we've seen in the past with Grafton's other books. I'd recommend this easy read to anyone wanting a few hours of enjoyment as it's definitely one of Sue Grafton's better books in this series. I only hope she will continue with this quality and not hit any more bumps that throw her off to only mediocre writing!
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By A Customer on August 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Of the Sue Grafton's series, this one didn't have the same impact as her earlier books. I was disappointed! The plot developed slowly, and at times reminded me of a bad 'made for T.V. movie'and the characters (other than the familiar aquaintances) lacked "character". After I began reading "L", over a year ago, I put the book down and didn't have the desire to read it until recently. I enjoyed her first books and hope that "M" is a better read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kinsey Millhone is the a hardboiled Santa Teresa private investigator. Miss Millhone is the creation of Sue Grafton. Kinsey is in her 30s, fond of her elderly landlord Henry Pitts and an intrepid crime solver. This installment of the crime series takes Kinsey on a rollercoaster ride across America from California to Louisville, Ky.
The Plot: Henry Pitts asks Kinsey to help the Lee family to find where Johnny Lee (recently deceased) served in World War II. The purpose is to receive a burial plot from the Veterans Administration. No records are found setting Kinsey on a wild odyssey. She travels by a 737 jet from Santa Teresa through Dallas, Arkansas and Western Ky ending up in an exciting finish in Louisville Ky. (the birthplace of Sue Grafton and the hometown of your humble reviewer!).
This novel is filled with tension as Kinsey spies on a pregnant woman thought to be carrying a duffel bag of cash hidden away by Johhny Lee. Her exploits in the Dallas hotel are exciting! Along the way we meet colorful characters such as Ray Rawson who knew Lee back in the day; his daughter Laura and a cruel criminal eager to find the hidden treasure by the name of Gilbert Hays. Readers will be quite suprised to learn why the novel is titled "Lawless."! Tne novel is narrated in the first person by Kinsey.
This is not a procedural crime novel as is per usual for Grafton. Instead, it is a tour de force of a frantic odyssey across America by Kinsey and her creative author Sue Grafton. A delight for fans of a good light read to while away a few hours in reading enjoyment!
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By A Customer on December 9, 1996
Format: Hardcover
This book's a lot like "H is for Homocide" in that Kinsey finds herself unexpectedly on the road again, away from her apartment and creature comforts. The book takes her from sunny California to Texas to Louisville, Kentucky. As a Kentucky native who worked in Louisville and southern Indiana for nearly twelve years, I found the descriptions of Interstate 65 from Nashville through west central Kentucky and particularly the Portland neighborhood in Louisville made me homesick to be back down south! As usual, Kinsey's wry humor and knack for lying her way into crazy predicaments adds to the fun. Her long-lost extended family wasn't talked about much in this book--probably because they couldn't figure out where she was once she hit the road--but she gets a taste of what it would be like to be part of a family group, and we may very well see her heading to Lompoc for a visit with "Grand" and the clan in a future book. Fun reading
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