M Is for Malice Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of M Is for Malice

Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone is dragged into the solving the mystery of the death of one of four heirs to a family fortunes and gets more than she bargained for. Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone knows how to solve the most obscure cases. No case is too big or too small and she just knows how to be a good detective. So when her cousin Tasha asks Kinsey to help find the missing heir to a wealthy family known as the Maleks, she simply can't turn it down. Kinsey meets with Tasha who explains that when the head of the family lied they were led to believe that the $40 million estate would be split evenly between his sons Donovan, Bennet and Jack. However, much to the families' shock the will mentions the bastard son guy who left the family and all of its wealth behind years prior.
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Kinsey decides it's imperative she meet with brothers and discovers none of them want Guy back in their lives, especially if it means giving him a share in the millions. Donovan has a successful construction business, Bennet is a straight shooter entrepreneur while Jack is a fun-loving cocky man who enjoys the drink and the women. Kinsey finds it sad that Guy is such an outcast, learning his run in with the law is what made him disappear 18 years prior. Kinsey knows she must find him and begins to look into places he could be.

After some digging, she finds an address in the town of Marcella yet is taken by surprise when she finds he has turned from his ways and has become a born again Christian ever since he fled the lifestyle of the rich and famous. He tells Kinsey he owes his new life to his Pastor Peter and his wife who took him in when he had nowhere else to go. She explains to him the situation and the death of his father, but warns him that his family is not too keen on his return. However, Guy looks to return and receive his inheritance as he wants to give back to the people who helped him become a new man.

As Kinsey predicts, his return is not welcome and garners much unwanted media attention. His brother Donovan is the most hostile about his return and Kinsey fears that Guy is no match for the rich socialites. This fear unfortunately becomes a reality as a few days later Guy's body is found on the family estate with his skull crushed. Stricken over his death and feeling partly responsible, Kinsey makes the decision to get to the bottom of things and find his killer.

Meanwhile, Kinsey is also dealing with the reappearance of her ex-lovers Robert and Jonah. Robert, a private investigator who she has a shaky past with decides to help her on the case. Although his help is welcome, Kinsey is dealing with the fallout of discovering that her ex Jonah has returned to his wife. This destroys Kinsey as she previously risked everything to be with him and he basically has undone everything they worked so hard to achieve.

Back on the case, Kinsey and Robert determine the evidence points to Guy's brother Jack as his killer. Kinsey meets in private with Jack's attorney Lonnie Kingman, an old friend and someone who truly believes Jack is innocent. Despite Jack's playboy and arrogant attitude, Kinsey agrees that he doesn't seem capable of murder. They strike up a deal where Lonnie calls in a favor and asks Kinsey to continue to look into the case and find evidence that exonerates Jack. Due to the suspicious nature of the situation, Kinsey agrees.

The investigation becomes a long and drawn out affair as Kinsey and Robert begin to look into Guy's past and his long list of crimes. Kinsey is suspicious of the misdemeanors Guy has been accused of as they do not paint a picture of the giving and loving gentle soul who performed odd jobs to survive and remained devoted to his church. Robert proposes a theory that Guy could have been framed for the crimes in an effort to pain him in a bad light. As the investigation continues, two of Guy's past incidents seem suspicious to Kinsey. One being that he stole historical documents from an old widow named Mrs. Maddison. The second being he got her daughter, Patti pregnant. After more digging, Kinsey discovers that Guy's brother Bennet is the one who stole the documents and Jack who is now convicted of murder got Patti pregnant. Unfortunately, no one is left alive to question. Even Patti's sister Claire died of mysterious circumstances.

Kinsey, frustrated at the dead end, turns to Robert for comfort and support which rekindles their love affair from years before. This puts Kinsey in a conflicted position as she knows they can't realistically work out but she is lonely and wishes to have someone in her life that won't leave her. While she knows she can't blame Jonah for returning to his wife, she can't help but be slightly bitter about it.

The next few days, Robert continues to investigate and discovers that Claire is actually not dead. At the same time, Donovan's wife Myrna has disappeared and all signs point to another murder. Kinsey questions the family and investigates the grounds and comes to the horrifying realization that Myrna is actually Claire. Kinsey and Robert find a weapon as well as blood that could potentially be Claire's but everything seems off and staged. Feeling this could be an attempt to mislead them, Kinsey spots a set of foot prints heading off in another direction. Kinsey follows the trail to the main highway where she finds Claire.

Kinsey reveals to Claire she knows she is not Myrna and that it was Jack she should have killed as he was responsible for her sister's death. Claire reveals that she knew she had to kill Guy in order for the money to be released to the remaining brothers. Having Jack out of the way would allow for more money to be split two ways and she planned to leave with it after leaving the family broken. She couldn't forgive them for ruining her life and leaving her mother to die alone. Kinsey tells Claire the jig is up and it is time to turn herself in but Claire refuses. Knowing the rest of her life will be spent in a jail cell, Claire throws herself onto the highway and is run over by several cars. She is proclaimed dead at the scene.

With the mystery solved and Jack released from prison, Kinsey consults with the family now that the skeletons in their closet have been revealed. The family agrees to donate Guy's portion of the estate to his church, knowing that is what he would have wanted. While Kinsey knows the outcome isn't ideal she is happy to at least know Guy's gentleness and generosity will carry on after his death. Although she doesn't know where her future with Robert lies, she is happy to have at least done some good.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved how Kinsey took Guy's death personally. She truly liked the man and got to know him and couldn't see him as this awful person his siblings described. After he was killed, it almost seemed like personal vengeance in solving his murder.

Best scene in story: I loved when Claire throws herself into oncoming traffic. It is such a powerful scene with descriptive imagery. The woman is desperate and knows her quest for revenge has led to her undoing.

Opinion about the main character: Kinsey refuses to give up and that is what I love about her. I also love how she finds a personal stake in solving crimes and tends to always find a way to relate it to her own life.

The review of this Book prepared by Jason Macumber a Level 4 Yellow-Headed Blackbird scholar

Chapter Analysis of M Is for Malice

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   depressing/sad How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   40% Special suspect?    -   relative Misc. Murder Plotlets    -   "All in the family" murder Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   inheritance struggle Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   private investigator Age:    -   20's-30's


United States    -   Yes Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Sue Grafton Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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