Solana Rojas fits evil to a 'T'

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By Pat Wellington

Although never a real fan of Sue Grafton, I have over the years picked up one or two of her novels which I often found underwhelming. But her latest, T Is for Trespass, has to be tops in the alphabet series because in Solana Rojas she has created evil incarnate.

Here’s what she says about evil in the Prologue: “I don’t want to think about the predators in this world. I know they exist, but I prefer to focus on the best in human nature: compassion, generosity, a willingness to come to the aid of those in need … To the cynics among us, I must sound like an idiot … I know there will always be someone poised to take advantage of the vulnerable: the very young, the very old, and the innocent of any age. I know this from long experience. Solana Rojas was one.”

Set in 1988, the novel opens easily with private eye Kinsey Milhone’s daily routines. She has been hired to investigate an automobile accident that may involve fraud that could cost the insurance company millions of dollars. The accident victim claims she’s in constant pain and unfit for work or other activities, but the young woman charged with the accident is suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the incident, believing it was a setup.

Kinsey’s investigation, however, would be put on the back burner when a crotchety neighbor, Gus Vronsky, takes a fall that makes him incapable of fending for himself. She contacts his only living relative, a niece, Elaine, in New York, a continent away from California.

Elaine hires Kinsey to find a caretaker for her uncle. Kinsey’ conducts a background search on an applicant named Solana Rojas, and everything checks out positively. And so Solana is hired. What Kinsey doesn’t know is that Solana Rojas is not the woman’s birth name. Hers is a stolen identity.

Because Grafton employs Solana’s voice, we come to know this chilling sociopath who has studied the system she will now manipulate. The dark weave of her machinations will cost Gus his valuables, his property, including his house, and ultimately his own life unless Kinsey finds enough evidence to stop her.

Besides being a fast-paced read, the novel reveals some stinging truths about societal problems, from identity theft to fraud to elder abuse and to the breakdown of institutions meant to protect the sick and vulnerable.

Highly recommended.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities, who shares her passion for books with others.