“Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.”
Can you beat that for an opening line?? That pace and writing style is what makes Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone “alphabet series” this week’s “Thumbs Up Tuesdays Four.”
I can’t remember when I first picked up one of Grafton’s books, but I do know this: I was bitten by a bug whose itch hasn’t stopped since the letter A!
A is for Alibi is Grafton’s first novel in the series, and the most recent is W is for Wasted. I agree with National Public Radio, who said “…makes me wish there were more than 26 letters” in the alphabet. I’m already bemoaning the fact that when Z comes, it just might be all over!
What makes these books so worthwhile are the characters. Kinsey Millhone is the private investigator featured in every book. She’s determined and smart, cuts her own hair with a nail scissors, and has a crush on her 80-something landlord, Henry Pitts. I do, too! Henry is her rock, keeping Kinsey in line when she strays too far into sketchy territory during the course of her investigations, feeds her his homemade soup and bread, and generally looks after her.
Henry provides needed stability, because Kinsey is not above taking grey-area shortcuts to catch the deviants, which adds to her appeal. Grafton’s writing spills out like a ball of yarn, bopping along and unrolling at a pace that makes each chapter flow into the next, all culminating in very unpredictable endings.
My favorite book in the series is T is for Trespass, featuring a sociopathic caregiver, Solana Rojas, who arrives to care for Gus, Kinsey’s elderly neighbor. Rojas is not what she seems, and Kinsey is the only one who feels the unsettling presence of the woman who shuts off Gus from the outside world in her attempt to steal everything he has.
I flipped pages faster than I could read, skimming along in a frantic haste to see who would win – Kinsey or Solana. It wasn’t pretty, either.
And that’s what makes Grafton so good – she digs into the dark side of human nature, dragging us just far enough along the path. Along with Kinsey, we get a little dirty and banged up, but we’re not down for the count – the good guys always win, but not easily.
My love of mysteries started when I found The Clue of the Leaning Chimney, #26 in the Nancy Drew mystery series. I collected Trixie Belden books in grade school (my favorite is #3, The Gatehouse Mystery) and my enjoyment for mysteries continues with Donna Leon’s “Brunetti” series and Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries.
I just wish there were more letters after Z…
In case you missed previous installments of Thumbs Up Tuesdays, here they are: