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"C" Is for Corpse

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Language  English
Media type  Print (Hardcover)
ISBN  978-0-03-001888-6
Author  Sue Grafton
Followed by  "D" Is for Deadbeat
Publisher  Henry Holt and Company
3.9/5 Goodreads

Country  United States
Publication date  1986
Pages  243 pp (first edition)
Originally published  1986
Preceded by  "B" Is for Burglar
Genre  Mystery

Similar  Works by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries Series books, Mystery books

"C" Is for Corpse is the third novel in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet" series of mystery novels and features Kinsey Millhone, a private eye based in Santa Teresa, California.


Plot summary

The novel begins with Kinsey the gym, rehabilitating herself from injuries sustained at the end of B is for Burglar. There she meets Bobby Callahan, a twenty-three-year-old who was nearly killed when his car went off the road nine months before. Bobby is convinced that the road accident, which killed his friend Rick, was an attempt on his life. He suspects that he may still be in danger, so he hires Kinsey to investigate: Bobby had lost his memory after the crash. He can't even explain why he thinks someone wants to kill him.

Kinsey takes the case despite little information, having taken a liking to Bobby. She meets his rich but dysfunctional family: Glen, his mother is an heiress on her third marriage to Derek Wenner, whose daughter Kitty is a 17-year-old drug-user seriously ill with anorexia. Glen has spared no expense in seeking treatment and counselling for Bobby, Rick's death, his own injuries and the loss of his prospects at medical school increase his depression. A few days later, Bobby dies in another car accident. Kinsey thinks this too is a murder attempt. Kinsey investigates several people: Kitty stands to inherit 2 million dollars from Bobby's will; Derek insured Bobby's life for a large sum without Glen's knowledge; and Rick's parents blame Bobby for their son's death.

However, Kinsey looks elsewhere for the solution: a friend of Bobby's gives her Bobby's address book, which shows Bobby searching for someone called Blackman. Bobby's former girlfriend thought Bobby ended their relationship because he was having an affair with someone else, and thinks Bobby was helping a woman who was being blackmailed. Kinsey eventually finds out that the woman with whom Bobby was involved was his mother's friend, Nola Fraker, who confesses to Kinsey that she was being blackmailed by someone who knows that Nola accidentally shot her husband, a well-known architect called Dwight Costigan, during a supposed struggle with an intruder at their home years before. The blackmailer has the gun with Nola's fingerprints on it.

Trying to investigate further, Kinsey realises that 'Blackman' is code for an unidentified corpse in the morgue. She finds the gun concealed in the corpse. However, while she is at the hospital, she finds the recently murdered body of the morgue assistant, and realises the killer is on her track at the hospital. It is Nola's current husband, Dr Fraker, a pathologist from the hospital, who is the blackmailer and killer. Bobby found out what Fraker was up to, but Fraker rigged the first car accident before he could do anything about it, and then cut the brake lines on Bobby's car when Bobby put Kinsey on the trail. Fraker traps Kinsey and gives her a disabling injection but she manages to cosh him and escapes to a phone to call the police.


"C" Is for Corpse was awarded the 1987 Anthony Award for Best Novel at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


"C" Is for Corpse Wikipedia