P is for Peril, the Random House audio version on cassette, read by the perennial Grafton reader Judy Kaye is bringing us closer to the completion of the alphabet. Once again Kaye delivers the expected: A flawless reading. Unfortunately what is perfect from a performance standpoint is less than perfect from an entertainment standpoint. It’s not that the listener is not entertained it is more that we are treated to a familiar formula which raises some questions about the decade in which Kinsey Milhone and Sue Grafton live.
Kinsey Milhone is a private investigator living and working in Santa Teresa, California. Apparently she is also the only California based professional without a working cell phone, a home alarm system and a computer with a client database. It is problematic for the story telling when the listener wonders about such things. The rest of the time and feel of the story is contemporary so why does Kinsey not take advantage of the tools available to her? Is it that this was a manuscript from way back that never quite made the grade but was pulled out to fit a scheduling deadline with the publisher? If that is not the case it certainly feels that way to the listener.
There are two story arcs in P is for Peril and neither of them is particularly satisfying. The first arc consists of Dr. Dow Purcell the head of staff at a nursing home disappears and his ex-wife hires Kinsey to see if she can get a lead on where he has disappeared to. The real weakness in this story is not only the perfunctory storyline but the litany of medical charges and Medicaid fraud background delivered in a story bullet/investigative interview about two thirds of the way through the story. The story could have been interesting if it weren't just suddenly laid out by a conveniently disgruntled accounts specialist. Through all of this practically everyone who comes into Kinsey's line of sight becomes a suspect in the disappearance of Dow Purcell.
The second story arc owes much to Lyle and Erik Menendez though not nearly as interesting as the real life trial was. The brothers in P is for Peril Richard and Tommy Hevner are psychopaths – a fact which is not giving away much because they pretty much seem that way from the time they appear in the story. The sub story is so perfunctory that it is almost a deception to call it a story at all. It is a simple connect the dots piece that is a predictable in its resolution as it was in its creation.
The sole shining light in the entire 8 cassette recording of P is for Peril is Judy Kaye's flawless reading. Kaye has an undeniable ability to create characters with her voice that is one of the many gifts that Broadway actors and actresses bring to audio books. Alas this is not enough to recommend this recording for purchase. In this case P is for Pass.