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"P" Is for Peril

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Language  English
Publication date  2001-06-04
Pages  320 pp (first edition)
Author  Sue Grafton
Followed by  "Q" is for Quarry
Publisher  G. P. Putnam's Sons
3.8/5 Goodreads

Country  United States
Series  Alphabet Mysteries
Media type  Print (hardcover)
Originally published  4 June 2001
Preceded by  "O" Is for Outlaw
Genre  Mystery

Similar  Works by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone books, Mystery books

"P" Is for Peril is the 16th novel in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet" series of mystery novels. The novel focuses on the disappearance of Dr. Dowan Purcell, a nursing home administrator and doctor at Pacific Meadows Nursing Home, and features Kinsey Millhone, a private eye based in Santa Teresa, California. The novel is set in 1986.

Plot summary

On 12 September 1986, wealthy and respected Santa Teresa doctor Dowan Purcell disappeared. Nine weeks later, with the police investigation apparently stalled, Kinsey is hired to find some answers, though slightly oddly it's his first wife Fiona, rather than current wife, Crystal, who is doing the hiring. Fiona, somewhat embittered by the breakdown of her marriage, is convinced that Dow has engineered his own disappearance, as she alleges Crystal is having an affair and admits that Dow has gone AWOL a couple of times before; in support of this, his passport and thirty thousand dollars seem to be missing. In contrast, Crystal, a former stripper Dow met on a trip to Las Vegas, is convinced he is dead. Not impressed either with Fiona's personality or the chances of turning up something on a cold trail, Kinsey accepts the case with some misgivings.

She soon finds evidence that there has been fraudulent Medicare /Medicaid activity at Pacific Meadows, the care home at which Purcell worked as medical director following his retirement from general practice. Opinion varies amongst his former colleagues and associates as to whether Purcell could have been responsible, whether deliberately or through administrative incompetence, but since he is missing, he is certainly a convenient scapegoat for any blame which might be assigned by the ongoing official investigation. Kinsey meets an old acquaintance in the form of Dana Glaser, formerly Dana Jaffe, now married to wealthy businessman Joel Glaser, co-director of the management company which owns Pacific Meadows. By coincidence, Kinsey's landlord Henry adds to the evidence of fraud when sorting through the finances of Rosie's recently deceased sister, Klothilde, who had stayed at Pacific Meadows. Kinsey struggles to work out whether Dow has done a runner with some illegal gains, killed himself having realised he was going to be implicated, or was entirely innocent but murdered by the real perpetrator of the fraud having realised what was going on.

In a sub-plot, Kinsey has decided it's time to leave her current rented office space at Kingman and Ives, and finds her dream office space up for rental by brothers Richard and Tommy Hevener. After snapping it up with a big advance rent cheque, and tentatively starting to date the attractive Tommy, Kinsey receives a shocking visit from one Mariah Talbot, who explains that the Heveners are suspects in the murder of their parents in Texas some years before; given Kinsey's blossoming relationship with Tommy, she is hoping Kinsey will help her entrap the brothers. Kinsey is in a dilemma; ultimately Henry carries out the entrapment himself to protect Kinsey after failing to persuade her to steer clear of it. After a dangerous showdown with the Hevener brothers, in which Richard kills Tommy with Kinsey's gun, Kinsey finds out that she was duped by Mariah Talbot; she is really the sister of the Heveners' hired accomplice whom they are also suspected of murdering.

Meanwhile, Kinsey has become embroiled in Purcell's complex family, and a search for Crystal's tearaway teen daughter Leila leads to Kinsey's discovery of Dow's car in a lake near Fiona's property. When the car is pulled out, Dow's body is in it. Kinsey has technically done her duty to Fiona, but she still wants to know how and why Dow died. She finds that Leila was behind the missing thirty thousand dollars, and Crystal is innocent of the affair Fiona had alleged. Kinsey establishes that it is Joel Glaser and his business partner who are responsible for the Pacific Meadows fraud; Dow Purcell had uncovered it. They aren't the killers, however: a bullet hole at Crystal's property implicates her. In the absence of Kinsey's usual explanatory epilogue, the motive is implied to be because Crystal is actually in a relationship with Leila's school counsellor, Anica.


"P" Is for Peril Wikipedia