"N" Is for Noose
"L" Is for Lawless
In January 1986, Tasha Howard hires her cousin Kinsey Millhone to find an heir of the wealthy Malek family. When patriarch Bader Malek died, everyone assumed his $40 million estate would be split between his sons Donovan, who runs the Malek construction empire, Bennet, a would-be entrepreneur, and Jack, a playboy - but the will also names the supposedly disinherited second son Guy, the black sheep of the family who left home 18 years ago, and has neither been seen nor heard of by the family since. His unlikeable brothers do not want him back in their lives, nor want him splitting the inherited millions. Kinsey sympethizes with the story of Guy's exile from his family as she struggles to deal with her own family troubles.
With illicit help from Darcy Pascoe, a friend at California Fedelity Insurance, Kinsey tracks Guy to the small town of Marcella near Santa Teresa. After being rescued by local pastor Peter Antle and his wife Winnie, Guy has become a devout Christian, who has turned his life around. Kinsey finds him the nicest of the Malek boys. Despite Kinsey's warnings, Guy agrees to return to his childhood home. Ugly family scenes ensue. Kinsey's worst fears for Guy are exceeded when he is found brutally bludgeoned to death at the family home. Feeling guilty for his death, Kinsey tries to find his killer.
At the same time, Kinsey deals with her own personal problems, including the reappearance of Robert Dietz, a private investigator ex. We also learn that Kinsey's ex-boyfriend Jonah Robb, the investigating officer on Guy's death, is back with his wife Camilla. Eventually Kinsey and Dietz resume their relationship, albeit on a transient basis, and Dietz helps her with the case.
Initial physical evidence implicates Jack Malek in Guy's murder, and his attorney, Lonnie Kingman, hires Kinsey to investigate further for Jack's defense. Kinsey believes the crime's motive lies in the past, but can't reconcile Guy's misdemeanors with the character of the man she knew. She decides Guy was a scapegoat for crimes he didn't commit: for example, Guy supposedly swindled widow Mrs Maddison out of a fortune in valuable historical documents alongside getting daughter Patti pregnant. Kinsey discovers that Bennet and his university friend Paul Trasatti completed the crime under the name Maxwell Outhwaite. She also connects the name to the murder to the Maddison situation, but since Mrs Maddison, her sister Claire and other family have died, this appears to be a frustrating dead end.
Dietz discovers that the story of Claire's death has been faked. Meanwhile, Enid reports that Myrna has disappeared from the Malek home in circumstances suggestive of foul play. Kinsey realises that Myrna is actually Claire, having bided her time to get revenge on the Malek family and Guy in particular. Claire tries to escape on foot but Kinsey catches her and confronts her that she killed the wrong brother. After confessing to destroying the will which disinherited Guy, and to the murder itself, Claire commits suicide. In a post-script, Kinsey explains that Tasha used a note Guy wrote to Kinsey as evidence of testamentary to ensure his share of the Malek millions goes to Peter and Winnie's church. The book ends with Kinsey reconciling herself with her grief at losing Guy and dead parents and aunt.