Sue Grafton, Author . Putnam $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-14915-3

While Kinsey Millhone is as energetic and tenacious as ever, and the plot hustles along at a gratifying pace, her 17th adventure is a little slow getting underway with all the initial accumulated biographical data. Two policemen out hunting discover a teenage girl's body near a quarry off California's Highway 1. Eighteen years later, the two recruit Millhone to help them try to identify the victim. Stacey Oliphant, now retired from the force, and Con Dolan, unwillingly sidelined by heart trouble, are as quarrelsome as an old married couple, but they both desperately want to find the killer in the quarry case. Their inquiries lead the trio from Santa Teresa to Quorum, a town in the desert near the Arizona border. At the time of the murder, a wrecked red convertible was found near the crime scene—stolen from an auto shop in Quorum. When Millhone and her cohorts talk to the grumpy shop owner, Ruel McPhee, and his charming son, Cornell, they get little information. Visits around town and probing conversations reveal various family secrets and covert liaisons, until the somewhat precipitous unmasking of the killer. Grafton briefly shoehorns in Millhone's interactions with her lost family, but that subject continues to feel as artificially imposed as it did in earlier books. A marvelously successful addition, however, is the twosome of Dolan and Oliphant. Their deftly rendered relationship is a delight; with any luck, the duo will appear in future Millhone mysteries. A main selection of the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild, and a BOMC featured selection. (Oct. 14)

FYI: Based on an actual unsolved murder that occurred in California in 1969, the book will include on the last page a recent forensic reconstruction of the real victim's face, in the hope this will help solve the crime.

Reviewed on: 09/16/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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