Iain's Leisure Reading


Sue Grafton - the Kinsey Millhone 'alphabet' crime series.   






I was introduced to this series by my daughter-in-law Jacqui, who lives in Sydney. She had been reading "T is for Trespass" by Sue Grafton, wondered what I would think of it, and had sent me a copy. Up to then I had never heard of Sue Grafton, nor of her "alphabet" series of crime books featuring a female private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. On doing some research I discovered that Sue Grafton was a very well known, successful, award winning American author. But I had in fact come across Sue Grafton's name before. Wikipedia reports that "in Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo , Mikael Blomkvist sits down with a mystey by Sue Grafton" ! I enjoyed the book but never queried who Sue Grafton might be.

Sue Grafton was born in 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky - she was raised there with her sister Ann (born 1937). Both her parents were alcoholics - her father was a novelist C W Grafton - and Sue had an unhappy childhood. Sue began writing at the age of 18. To escape from home, Sue married early and by the age of 20 had a young child. But at 21, she still managed to graduate from the University of Lousiville in 1961 with a BA in English Literature. She then worked as a hospital admissions clerk, a cashier, and a medical secretary in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, California. She wrote her first novel by the age of 22, and wrote six more manuscripts, but only two of the seven books were ever published. She then turned to writing screenplays, and over 15 years did reasonably well. She finally escaped screenwriting in 1990 with her "alphabet" crime book series well established and successful.

Sue (and her alter ego Kinsey Millhone) married twice, divorced twice. Sue then married a third time - more successfully this time to her husband of over 20 years, Steven Humphrey. Steven teaches at the Universities of Montecito, Santa Barbara, California, and Louisville, Kentucky, and so he and Sue split their time between both places. Sue has three children from her earlier marriages, and several grandchildren - including one called Kinsey ! Sue liked reading novels with related titles - (as do I). She also liked an alphabetic picture book of children who die by various means - "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" This gave her idea to write a chronoligical series of crime novels based on the alphabet.


Sue writes from the perspective of a female investigator Kinsey Millhone in fictional "Santa Teresa " in California. Santa Teresa is based on Santa Barbara. Kinsey is Sue Grafton as she imagines herself had she not got married, and had life been different. The first book in the series "A is for Alibi" was set and written in 1982, but the time line of the series is slower than real time - eg "Q is for Quarry" is set in 1987, but was written in 2002. Her books are published in 28 countries and in 26 languages, but Sue has refused to sell their film or TV rights - her time writing screenplays has cured her of any desire to work with Holywood. And her children have been told not to sell the rights after her death !





"A" is for Alibi,     (1982)


I read this book in April, 2015.

This is book one in the "alphabet" series by Sue Grafton, featuring Kinsey Millhone, a female private detective in fictional Santa Theresa, (i.e. Santa Barbara) just outside LA. This is the second book in the series that I have read. I started with book 20, "T is for Trespass, " which was given to me as a gift. I am pleased to report that I liked both books - at one time I feared that I might not enjoy a female writer writing about a female detective. (This was because I did not like Rebecca Tope writing about Thea Osborne. , i.e. book one in the Costwold series. )

The book has a terrific opening that certainly grabbed my attention. I paraphrase a little :- "My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed in the state of California. I am 32, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday, I killed someone ....." But Sue Grafton has to pay too high a price (I thought) for such a provocative opening. She has given away the ending. In fact I had guessed who she would end up killing before the end of the book, but it's not quite the climax it should have been at the end because we know she killed someone, and now who the someone was.

That said, it's a good opening to the series. We meet 32 year old Kinsey, it is set in 1982, and the book was written in 1982. Kinsey is an ex copper, and has a good friend (thought probably neither would admit it) in Lieutenant Con Donlan in the police homicide division. Kinsey is unusual in liking/ preferring confined spaces. She drives a small car (Volkswagen Beetle), and lives in a converted small garage / now bedsit, in the garden of her 80 + year old landlord Henry. He is a retired master baker who has lost none of his baking skills - he still makes rolls and trades them for free meals at Rosie's , a bar diner nearby, and Kinsey's "local". As an aside, by the time Sue Grafton gets to "Z is for .....", Henry, if still around, should be 106 + years old ! Kinsey's mum and dad were killed when she was 5, and she was brought up by an aunt. Kinsey is pretty tough in a "girlie" kind of way - feminine, but able to take care of herself when she has to. She is a good p.i., and lives for and loves her job. I liked the set up, the slight contradictions, and liked to read a crime investigation from a female perspective !

It's quite a good story. Nikki Fyfe gets out of jail 8 years after being convicted for the murder of her husband, the lawyer Lawrence Fyfe. She hires Kinsey to try to find who really killed Lawrence. Will it be a hopeless task ? Has the trail gone cold after 8 years ?

One of the strengths of the story is the realistic (I think) depiction of the routine of being a p.i. It's all a long slog, trying to put together and build a picture of what might have happened, doing a lot of digging, and not knowing yet what is relevant or not.

As I said before, I had read book 20 before reading this book, and I had been looking forward to reading book 1 to see where in Kinsey's life, the story would begin. Kinsey, of course, is a sort of alter ego for Sue Grafton who was twice divorced when very young. I thought we might start with a single Kinsey, and follow her through two failed marriages. But no, in book one, Kinsey is already twice divorced, etc.

Unlike Ian Rankin's John Rebus, , Kinsey is not going to age in real time. Probably that is wise. Rebus had to retire too early in my opinion, when there were still a lot more stories to be told.






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"B" is for Burglar,     (1985)


I read this book in May, 2015.

"B is for Burglar" is the second book in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about a female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, set in fictional Santa Theresa, in California. It's the third in the series that I have read - I started with the "T" book given to me as a gift.

I like Kinsey Millhone. Most of the time she is self assured, well able to take care of herself, but sometimes she comes over as someone almost frightened in a tough world. It's a strange, but fascinating, contradiction. Although three years have elapsed in the real world (1982 to 1985), it's only three weeks after book one in Santa Theresa - so Kinsey is still 32, single, twice divorced, but we may be seeing the start of a special friendship between her and DC Jonah Robb. He had better not pay her too many complements. He had simply remarked "Like your hat, Kinsey," and off she goes muttering "I'm 32 now, and don't need advice on how to dress, thank you." In the same vein, when Kinsey is out for dinner with Beverley Danziger's businessman husband, Kinsey orders the food and drink for both of them - "I don't think he was accustomed to a woman ordering for him, but there didn't seem to be any harmful side effects."

The story is about Beverley Danziger calling in to Kinsey's office, and asking her to find her sister Elaine Boldt, who seemed to have gone missing. We then follow Kinsey as she proceeds to try to track down Elaine - is she dead, or is she in hiding somewhere, and why ?

There are more deaths and dead bodies in the story before we get to the end. Sue Grafton uses one of the oldest tricks in detective fiction, and I kicked myself afterwards that I hadn't twigged earlier on. When I come across this in other books I usually say " those of us who read a lot of crime fiction prick up our ears when we hear .." I can't say more in case I spoil the story, but well done, Sue Grafton, for disguising it so well.

The books are written as if Kinsey is filling in a completion of investigation report for us. I think this is unnecessary - just tell the story, Sue.

But I followed the story, kept turning the pages, and liked what I read and Kinsey, and her attitude to life as a female detective in a male detective's world. I look forward to reading "C is for Corpse." Will Kinsey still be 32, I wonder?






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"C" is for Corpse,     (1986)


I read this book in June, 2015.

"C is for Corpse" is book three or should I say book C, in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about a female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, based in fictional Santa Theresa, in California, about 95 miles from LA. Surprise, surprise, Kinsey is still "aged 32, twice divorced", so remarkably is still the same age as per book one (book A).

Kinsey is a lone operator "I like being alone, and I supose my independence suits me more than it should", so she is not really a member of a team whose fortunes we follow from book to book. But there are some recurring characters - Henry, Kinsey's 80 + year old landlord, Rosie, who runs Kinsey's "local", and a couple of contacts in the police force, Jonah Robb (surely a future love interest for Kinsey ?), and Lieutenant Dolan. We do hear just a little about one of Kinsey's former husbands - he was gifted musician Daniel Wade who just couldn't be faithfull, nor lay off the drugs, nor stay in one place for long. I wonder if either of her former husbands will turn up in some future book, perhaps seeking Kinsey's help. But "H is for Husband" is not quite as catchy as "H is for Homicide".

There is a major story, and a sub plot in this book. In the sub plot, Kinsey saves Henry from a crooked, gold digging lady friend who makes the bad mistake of picking a fight with Kinsey. The main story is a good one. Kinsey is recovering from the injuries of book two, and is working out in a gym, on a six week regime to get back to full fitness. There she meets Bobby Callahan, who is a physical wreck, and is torturing himself to get his mobility back after a terrible car crash that killed his best friend. Bobby and Kinsey get on well, and Bobby tells Kinsey his story. Before the crash he was bright and fit, but now, in addition to his physical injuries, he has suffered brain damage, and has lost part of his memory.

Bobby thinks he was forced off the road by someone who was trying to kill him perhaps because of something he knew, but he just can't remember who, nor why. He pays Kinsey a $5,000 retainer to find out. Kinsey tells us at the start of the book that she is writing her report to the deceased Bobby, so we know that Bobby dies, but she goes on working in memory of Bobby and to give value for money paid. I think it might have been better to keep Bobby's death for later, so that it could come as a plot twist - I am not all that keen on the report writing format of these books.

All the above said, it was a good story, and I like Kinsey. I like the way she goes about solving crimes, and gathering clues. She just keeps on going, althought it is usually a hard, fruitless slog at the start. We are with her all the way, and we can almost see the way her mind works. Bobby invites Kinsey home to meet his mum and stepfather - and Kinsey discovers that Bobby is part of the super rich. Bobby has a half sister who is anorexic, and into drugs. She is being treated by doctors who are family friends. So we meet lots of characters - one of whom must be the murderer. Jonah Robb tells Kinsey to take care, and call for back up. Easier said that done.

It's all easy reading, althought I don't understand a lot of the Americanisms. It's well writen, and builds to a terrific climax. I'll definitely read on.






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"D" is for Deadbeat,     (1987)


I read this book in June, 2015.

"D is for Deadbeat" is book four i.e book D, in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about female private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey is based in fictional Santa Theresa, in California, about 95 miles from LA. As per the previous book, but no longer a surprise, Kinsey is still "aged 32, twice divorced, etc ", so is still the same age as per book one (book A).

I like Kinsey, and I like to hear how she is getting on, so I did enjoy this book, but I didn't think the main plot was all that strong. Perhaps the problem is that Kinsey's client is a low life, deadbeat, so we don't really care all that much about him. He is John Daggett, who gives a false name when he aproaches Kinsey, and she is not sure that she should take him on. He wants her to deliver a 25k bankers cheque i.e. one that won't bounce, to a Tony Gahan, whom Kinsey has to find. She sort of agrees, John Dagget leaves quickly, but as he leaves tells Kinsey that Tony Gaham is only a kid, and when Kinsey wants to change her mind, John D has disappeared. Of course his retainer cheque to Kinsey bounces, and so Kinsey sets out to find John Daggett to get another cheque. Why did she bother ? Soon John Daggett is found dead - the police says its an accident, but Kinsey disagrees, and sets out to find evidence of foul play. Again, why did she bother ? Kinsey finds Tony Gahan and a lot more besides - but I could have done with her fighting for a better cause.

We have a further instalment in Kinsey's private life, but Kinsey's 85 year old landlord Henry, and Kinsey's local, Rosies, are barely mentioned. No banter, no fun - which I missed. We do have a development on the romantic front, however, with Jonah, the married policeman and Kinsey's friend. He is now back with his estranged wife, but she tells him she wants an open repationship. "The open part is for her, not you", says Kinsey. Kinsey tells Jonah to get his life sorted - he should not volunteer to be unhappy. So Kinsey starts out not wanting a relationship with a married man, but after a nice meal and a few drinks, Kinsey's fine principles are abandoned. But I don't really mind if Kinsey is inconsistent. Kinsey never claims to be perfect, nor particularly brave, nor fearless. In fact she is probably just the right blend of strong when required, but mostly happy to deal with the unglamourous routine of investigation, and leave the scary stuff to the cops.

There is a bit of a surprise when the murderer is revealed - someone I never expected. There is also a bit of tension building to a climax at the end. It's all well written, as usual - so the verdict is it's a good read, but not the best in the series.






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"E" is for Evidence,     (1988)


I read this book in July, 2015.

"E is for Evidence" is book five i.e book E, in Sue Grafton's alphabet series featuring female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, and set in fictional Santa Theresa, in California, about 95 miles from LA. And yes, Kinsey is still "aged 32, twice divorced, etc. "

This is a nice little story - just a little bit different. I even thought we were going to get all the way through the book without any dead bodies, but a couple of bombs went off, and almost killed Kinsey each time. I liked the book, and was hooked from a great beginning. $5,000 appears in Kinsey's bank account, but she hasn't deposited any money. She contacts the bank, thinking it's a simple error. It is almost Christmas, and Kinsey is working for the company where she has her office, on an insurance claim by Wood Warren whose warehouse has burned down. It seems a straight forward case, with no suggestion of arson - but the claim has been sitting on someone's desk for 3 days, and now Kinsey is asked to rush things. She has some doubts, but submits a report saying there is no evidence of arson. The reports she has seen have been forgeries. It is arson. Lance Wood, the general manager, is blamed, and also Kinsey herself is accused of being part of the fraud. The $5,000 was a "bride" that Kinsey accepted as part of the fraud. Kinsey is locked out of her office, and is going to be charged by the local D.A. So Kinsey employs herself to investigate what is going on, and to clear her name.

Kinsey finds herself alone at a time when she could do with some friends. Her sort of love interest, Jonah (a married man), is off with his family for Christmas. And 80 + year old Henry, Kinsey's landlord and friend, is also away for Christmas, visiting his older brothers ! Even Rosie's, Kinsey's local, is closed until after New Year.

If all of that wasn't bad enough, Kinsey's unreliable ex, second husband Daniel Wade, the jazz pianist / drug addict has turned up. What does he want, and will Kinsey fall for his charms once again ?

The story is all about the Wood family, and an old family secret that Kinsey has to crack to prove her innocence. The Wood family are very wealthy, but it helps that Kinsey went to school with some of the girls - Ebony, Olive, and Ash - and can talk to them, and tease out the hidden secret.

There is good news and bad news at the end. Kinsey is going to need a new place to live, but Henry is back, and has employed an architect to design a new place for Kinsey.

The book had a good story, was a good read, and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next / who was framing Kinsey, and why ?






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"F" is for Fugitive,     (1989)


I read this book in July, 2015.

"F is for Fugitive" is book six i.e book F, in Sue Grafton's alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone, a female private investigator based in fictional Santa Theresa, in California, about 95 miles from LA. And once again, yes, Kinsey is still "aged 32, twice divorced, etc. " Sue Grafton's titles don't always relate too closely to the main plot in her stories, but unusually in this one, one of the main characters, Bailey Fowler, is a fugitive from the law.

It's quite a nice little story that I greatly enjoyed. But first, what has been happening in Kinsey's private life. At the end of the previous book Kinsey was homeless after her little, converted garage bedsit had been destroyed by a bomb. This book opens with Kinsey lodging with her 82 year old landlord and dear friend Henry, but unhappily, she is not in the best of moods. Henry is mothering her, washing her clothes, cooking proper meals, and fussing over her. She finds it irksome, and complains. Henry's reply is classic / unapologetic /and so very true ........

"You need a keeper. I've said so for months. You don't have a clue how to take care of yourself. You eat junk. Get beat up. Place gets blown to bits. I told you to get a dog, but you refuse. So now you got me, and if you ask me, it serves you right."

Kinsey jumps at her next case as it takes her away from Henry / Santa Theresa to Floral Beach. Her client owns a motel and gives Kinsy free lodgings. The client, Boyce Fowler, is autocratic head of a terrible family, the father of Bailey and Ann, and the husband of Ori (Oribelle), a self pitying invalid. Kinsey observes the dynamics of this strange family with special interest and then distaste - Kinsey's mum and dad were killed when she was five. We get a poignant flashback to Kinsey in her parents crashed car, reaching out to hold hands with her dead father. Henry is the only sort of father figure Kinsey has known - but he is 82 years old, and so possibly won't be around for too much longer. Kinsey resolves to count her blessings, enjoy a precious friendship whilst it lasts, and not to take offence any more at Kenry's mothering. Otherwise, all is quiet on the Kinsey home front - no mention of Jonah, no new love interest.

As an aside, just as I wonder when Kinsey will get around to having another birthday, I also wonder if, but hope that Henry can make it through the alphabet to Z ?

What of the story. 17 years ago, Bailey accepted a poor and mistaken plea bargain, and pleaded guilty to a murder that he didn't do - that of his girlfriend Jean Timberlake. He then absconded from jail, got a new identity, and lived a good and productive life. He prospered, but was then promoted to area manager, and found himself back near Floral Beach - where he was recognised and recaptured by the police. Boyce hires Kinsey to investigate just what happened all those 17 years ago. In short, can Kinsey find out who killed Jean Timberlake, and clear Bailey ?

It's a good story, and we are kept guessing right up to the last chapter. I thought Kinsey was just a little bit more jokey than usual, but not too jokey. Sue Grafton got it just right. Although it's quite a short book at only 260 pages, I didn't feel short changed. Roll on book G !






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"G" is for Gumshoe,     (1990)


I read this book in August, 2015.

"G is for Gumshoe" is book seven i.e book G, in Sue Grafton's fine, alphabet series featuring female private investigator Kinsey Millhone who is based in fictional Santa Theresa, in California, about 95 miles from LA. And three cheers, the book opens on May 5th, and its Happy Birthday to Kinsey. At long last she is now 33, "(after what seems like an interminable twelve months of being thirty-two)".

There are two other things happening on May 5th. The first is that Kinsey has a new case to work on, and the second is not such good news - Kinsey is on Tyrone Patty's hit list, and a hired hit man is after her. Both of these stories are what this book is about. Usually when there are two stories in a book they turn out to be connected. I won't spoil the book by saying if that is case here, or not.

Story one, the case to work on, is a missing person search. Kinsey has been hired by Mrs Clyde Gersch to find her aged mother who has gone missing, and has not been cashing the cheques Mrs Gersch has been sending. The last known address is a trailer home in a strange very run down site in the Mojave desert. Kinsey finds the mum suffering from intermittent dementia. She doesn't want to be found, and pleads with Kinsey not to take her back to where her daughter lives. She is not just terrified of the place, she thinks it holds certain death for her. Kinsey feels responsible for the old lady whose life she has upset, and tries to make sense of her incoherrent ramblings. It turns out to be a very complicated tale which Kinsey unpicks with great skill, and in very trying circumstances.

The trying circumstances are several attempts on Kinsey's life. At first, she hadn't got too excited at being on a hit list. She somehow didn't feel in danger. But soon the reality of the situation (two failed attempts on her life) forces itself upon Kinsey, and she is absolutely and justifiably terrified. When she was a cop, she had been taught to call for back up, and that is what she does now. Robert Dietz of Decker Dietz Investigations is recommended, and Kinsey knows the name. She has used Dietz before to do some research for her. Kinsey phones Dietz, explains her problem, and instantly the cavalry is on it's way. Dietz doesn't say much, is an alpha male with a Porsche, likes to be in charge, arrives, and takes over Kinsey's life. In normal circumstances she would never tolerate being protected, but these are not normal circumstances. Luckily she could not have chosen better backup. Dietz knows his job, is ultra efficient, scolds Kinsey for using the wrong gun and the wrong ammunition, and gives her a crash course in client protection. Suffice to say, Kinsey is still standing at the end of the book - but it's a near thing.

What is happening in Kinsey's life. Henry, her 82 year old landlord and good friend , is still around - to help her celebrate her birthday, and Dietz briefs Henry about what is happening. Henry does what he can. Love life wise, there is no further mention of Jonah - although he and Dolon's name crops up when Kinsey and Dietz tell the local police what is happening. But Kinsey and Dietz, although opposites, are thrown together. Dietz is living in Kinsey's small aprtment. So I think I need say no more. Perhaps Robert Dietz will reappear in some future book. He would make a good professional partner and perhaps even a good life partner too ?

It's another good story, well told, gripping, and it all builds to a climax as Kinsey's life seems in terminal peril.

When the book finishes, August 29th has been and gone, so Kinsey is at least thirty-three and a quarter. Lets try to follow a time line to her next birthday.






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"H" is for Homicide,     (1991)


I read this book in August, 2015.

This is book 8 (book H) in Sue Grafton's series about Kinsey Millhone, a female PI working in fictional Santa Theresa, along the coast from LA. It's a good series, and I like Kinsey, and the other characters in the series - eg 82 year old Henry, Kinsey's landlord. This book was OK, but I didn't think it was the best in the series. It started off very strongly, but then I almost lost interest. Kinsey got herself trapped in a single plot story that went on and on. I'd have liked more variety, more things happening at the same time, and maybe even a little bit more humour.

It started off so well. We have Kinsey happy with her lot in life, in a job she likes and does well, and with some money. But she warns us to beware when things are going too well - as fate is about to kick you in the teeth. Head Office of California Fidelity are not making as much profit as budgeted, and call in one of their whiz kids, Titus Oates, to see what is wrong. He tries to treat Kinsey as an employee, and Kinsey does not like that at all. So Titus and Kinsey fall out. But then we hear no more of this until almost the last few sentences of the book - presumably setting up a future Titus / Kinsey bust up for the next book.

Then the plot becomes very implausible. Kinsey is looking for proof that one Bibianna Diaz is involved in insurance fraud, and so decides to go undercover and become Bibianna's trusted friend. This includes socking a police woman in the jaw. Would Kinsey really do such a thing - and put her PI license at risk - just to nail a petty criminal. However, the insurance scam is part of a big business empire run on a massive scale by Bibianna's "boyfriend" Raymond. Raymond is very possessive, and Bibianna longs to escape his clutches, but she and Kinsey are held more or less as hostages. Raymond doesn't seem able to control his temper, and lashes out in fits of cruel thuggery - acts with which he is in complete self denial. And somehow, Kinsey is doing all this just to help the local police, and lieutenant Dolan.

It's all very far fetched. Why is Kinsey going along with it all ? And if the police have someone infiltrated into the insurance fraudsters, why do they need Kinsey's help ?

Kinsey is trapped in the clutches of the criminals for most of the story, and in extreme danger for page after page. It's difficult to sustain this and I thought it all takes too long to come to a head.

There are then a couple of unexpected plot twists at the end, so I ended up thinking the book was probably OK, but we have got used to better fare from Sue Grafton.

I'm sure I will enjoy the next book better.






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"I" is for Innocent,     (1992)


I read this book in August, 2015.

This is book 9, book "I", in Sue Grafton's alphabet series, and PI Kinsey Millhone is still going strong. I didn't like book 8 all that much- it was stuck in a one story trap - but here Sue Grafton is back on form.

The story opens with Kinsey facing certain death - and yet we know that she doesn't die. We have to wait until a terrific climax at the very end of the book to find out what happened, and how she came to escape death.

First the main crime story. Kinsey has saved them millions, busting the insurance scammers of book 8, but has amazingly been dismissed by California Fidelity (not that she was an employee) following a personality clash with whiz kid Titus Oates. She suffers a temporary loss of confidence, but eventually recovers, and now has a new office on the third floor of a building bang in the centre of Santa Theresa - now working in liaison with a top lawyer Lonnie Kingsman. Lonnie usually goes to Moreley Shine as his main investigator, but Moreley has just died. Kinsey is on site and agrees to drop everything and take over the case Moreley had been working on. This is to be her first case working for Lonnie. By coincidence Moreley was an ex partner of the PI who trained Kinsey when she started out as a PI, and so she thought that Moreley must have been top notch. But it soon seems that Morely may have let his standards slip. The brief is to find sufficient evidence to support a private civil action against a David Barney for the murder of his wife Isabelle. Barney had been found not guilty at a state criminal trial, but lots of people thought he had done it, and especially Isabelle's first husband Ken Voight. Sadly Kinsey's work seems to be heading towards exonerating David Barney, not convicting him. " I for Innocent". But of course, things can, and do, change quickly.

Kinsey still has no love interest - she does have to call on ex "boyfriend" Jonnah Robb to act as back up, but nothing comes of this as she sends him to the wrong place. Henry, Kinsey's landlord, is in his eighties, but still has an older brother, William, who is visiting. William is a terrible hypochondriac, and his constant talking about all his ailments drives Henry to distraction. But a visit to Rosie's, Kinsey's local, seems to offer a solution. Rosie says leave it to her, she will sort it, " no problem". And she does seem to be succeeding - but does Henry want Rosie as his sister in law ?

It's a good story, well told, and a good series. Sometimes Sue Grafton's titles seem unrelated to the plots, but here I can see where the "I for Innocent" title came from. Time wise, we are well past Christmas and New Year - so Kinsey's next birthday (May 5th) is only a few months away. But how long will it take Kinsey to reach 34 ?






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"J" is for Judgment,     (1993)


I read this book in September, 2015.

This is book 10, book "J", in Kinsey Millhone's adventures as a PI in Santa Theresa - it's a fictional place 95 miles along the Californian coast from LA. Kinsey is still 34 - she seems to age one year for every five. Up to know, she has followed in the footsteps of Raymond Chandler's famous PI Philip Marlowe. She has no parents, no family, no ties, and likes her life as it is. But now we have a bit of a departure. In neighbouring Perdido, a further 90 miles up the coast, Kinsey is asked if she is related to the Burton Kinseys, and before we know it, Kinsey has a background after all, a grandmother, and three female cousins who all knew of Kinsey's existence, but never tried to get in touch, not even when the aunt who brought up Kinsey, died. Kinsey sort of keeps them all at arms length - she is not sure she wants a family. I am sure we will hear more of this in future books.

The main story here is that Kinsey is working on a job for California Fidelity (CF) once again. Wendell Jaffre was a crook who ran a Ponzi scheme with his partner Carl Eckert, swindled lots of clients out of millions of dollars, and then apparently was lost at sea. His life was insured, and five years later the insurers had to pay out to his "widow" Dana. But then Wendell was possibly spotted alive and well - apparently living with another "wife" Renata. Was it really Wendell - CF hire Kinsey to find out.

Wendell had disappeared leaving Dana to bring up their two boys. The last thing she wants is for Wendell to reappear. Renata is not too happy either. Who all knew that Wendell was alive - was Eckert a crook or a dupe ?

Its a good story for 80% of the book, but it has a rather messy, and not very satisfying ending. Quite a few questions are raised, but not answered. Whilst that happens in real life, I do like tidier endings.

Not much happens in Kinsey's private life - other than her acquiring a family. There is still no love interest for Kinsey. Henry, Kinsey's landlord and friend, is back to his usual cheerful self. William, his older and hypochondriac brother, has moved out - he is to marry Rosie, and has moved in with her. William is about 86 - good luck to him and Rosie, and why not ?

Its a good series, and I like Kinsey. I look forward to the next adventure.






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"K" is for Killer,     (1994)


I read this book in October, 2015.

This is book 11, book "K", in the ongoing adventures of Kinsey Millhone, a PI in Santa Theresa. And yes, Kinsey is still 34 ! I liked this book, but once again I didn't like the ending. Kinsey has sort of subcontracted out a murder to the "mafia", but other than Kinsey saying I hope I don't do that again, there are no real repercussions. They might come in a later book - or perhaps she has earned someone powerful's gratitude and that might be repaid in the future, but I doubt it.

There is not much to report in Kinsey's private life. Henry, Kinseys 84 year old landlord, is off with William, the older brother who is about to get married to Rosie - in the next book, presumably. I missed the usual banter between Kinsey and Henry. The are no developments in Kinsey's love life. I had thought there might be something developing between a Kinsey and detective Cheney Phillips, her new contact within the local police, but not within this book. In parts of the story Kinsey seems to have been mistaken for a police detective, and partnered with Cheney she seems to have surprisingly good access to crime scenes and police HQ. Lieutenant Dolan, her original boss years ago, with whom she still keeps in contact, has survived a heart attack, and Kinsey visits him in hospital.

The story here concerns the murder of Lorna Kepler, some 10 months previously. Lorna's mother Janice Kepler thinks the police enquiry has got nowhere, and she calls in Kinsey to find out what happened to Lorna, and who killed her. It soon turns out that the beautiful Lorna was no angel, worked as a hooker, and had made a porn film. We then follow Kinsey as she works on the case, just following any and all the leads, until eventually persistence by Kinsey is rewarded.

Lorna was a girl of the night, and Kinsey finds that working on this case, she is now sleeping by day and working by night. It is very disorientating, and Kinsey is exhausted most of the time. Possibly this is why she inexplicably "calls in the mafia at the end" to get "justice."

There are ever so many characters in this book, and sometimes I found it difficult to remember who was who. Lorna had two sisters Trinny and Berlyn, and her mum and dad were Janice and Mace Kepler. Lorna used to do house sitting for Serena Bonney, and look after Serena's old dad. It was Serena who found Lorna's body. Lorna's best friend was Danielle whom she met when they both worked for the same escort service - and surprisingly Kinsey and Danielle get on remarkably well. Kinsey is not used to doing girly things with a girl friend, but she even lets Danielle cut and tidy up her hair.

All in all, another good story. Pity about the ending. When Kinsey first met Mace, Janice's husband, she thought he was less than enthusiastic about the investigation, and Kinsey resolved to submit interim bills for her work - she doubted Mace would pay. We never do find out if Kinsey was paid.






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"L" is for Lawless,     (1995)


I read this book in October, 2015.

This is book 12, book "L", in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about Kinsey Millhone, female PI of Santa Theresa. I thought it was a worthy member of a good series, with a good beginning and a strong ending, but perhaps just an average middle. Throughout, though, I kept asking why Kinsey had put herself into any of this - she should have known that she would never get paid with no proper contract, nor any up front payment. Really, she should be more business like, especially when she is puting her life at risk.

Everyone seems to be telling lies - no one can be trusted. The essence of the story is that a gang got a fortune in a bank raid by breaking into the vaults, and making off with bags and bags of treasure, money, jewels, certificates, bonds, etc. Johnny Lee was supposed to hide the loot somewhere safe, and now years later he is dead, but he has left clues as to where the loot is hidden. Kinsey is sort of helping Ray Rawson, one of the gang, to find the money, but pursued by Gilbert, another of the gang members. It all started as a favour to Kinsey's landlord Henry. Johnny Lee was a neighbour who had died, but his son Chester was having touble getting the US army to accept that Johnny was a soldier, and so should get a death benefit contribution to the funeral costs. Could Kinsey help ? I did like Ray Rawson's fiesty old mum - not quite as blind as she seemed, and a far faster thinker than might have seemed possible.

There is still no love interest in Kinsey's life, but Henry's brother William and Rosie finally get married - and not a dry eye in the place.

I look forward to reading book M, but let's get a boyfriend for Kinsey, please.






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"M" is for Malice,     (1996)


I read this book in November, 2015.

This is book 13, book M, in Sue Grafton's alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone, a female PI based in Santa Theresa, 90 odd miles along the coast from LA. I thought it was a nice little story that held my interest throughout, but it had a very abrupt ending. Although I am jumping ahead somewhat, I was interested to be reading about someone who pretended to be dead just by publishing an orbituary in the local paper. The paper never asked for proof of death - it just took the notice in good faith. I have read the same plot elsewhere, but I am not saying that Sue has copied or is being copied. It is quite common for the same themes to crop up several times.

The story is about four brothers, the Malik brothers, whose father had built a very successful construction company before dying. So each brother was set to inherit about $5 mil. each. But the twist is that one of the brothers, Guy, had been more than a bit of a rascal, and had swindled a widow out of her inheritance. He had already received his quarter share of his inheritance when he was thrown out and disowned by his father years ago. Unfortunately the father did not revise his will. Now that he is dead, only the original, unrevised will can be found - so it's back to a four way split, and Guy must be found. Kinsey is called in to search for Guy, but none of the three brothers wants her to succeed. Kinsey does find Guy, and then the fun starts. Guy has found God, and is a reformed man - or is he ?

Kinsey got the job from her cousin - Kinsey had asked Tasha for help, and now has to return the favour. Kinsey is not too keen to be dealing with her family relations when she has managed for so long without them. Generally Kinsey is fed up - she thinks she might be depressed. And then Robert Dietz comes back into Kinsey's life - but does she want to let him in ? He is definitely a rolling stone, and to be fair, he makes this clear. If Kinsey gets involved again, she will end up with more sadness when Dietz moves on. I thought this part of the story was handled well. But then it was suggested that ghosts attach themselves to some people, and Kinsey was someone who attracted ghosts. She had to learn to say goodbye, and let go - and here, Sue Grafton had lost me. I am not sure what all that was about. Overall, however, it was a good story, that I enjoyed.

I doubt that Robert Dietz will still be around in the next book, but we will see.






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"N" is for Noose,     (1998)


I read this book in November, 2015.

This is book 14 (book N) in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about Kinsey Millhone, PI of Santa Theresa. It's an unusual little story, but I liked it.

It opened where book "M" finished. Robert Dietz was still around, but had had a kneee operation, and had been looked after by Kinsey who fed him a diet of peanut butter sandwiches. She then drove him and his car back to his house - taking the opportunity to have a good nose round whilst he was out. Dietz had been appproached by a former client of his, Selma Newguard, with a new commission. Still recovering, Dietz passed the job on to Kinsey. Little did she know how dangerous it was to prove.

It seemed a simple job. Selma's husband Tom was a policeman who had been greatly troubled by some problem. Selma wanted to ask Tom what the problem was, but he had a heart attack, and died. So Selma hired Kinsey to look into it, and find out what the problem was. What terrible secret had Tom known, that troubled him so much ?

Tom was much respected in Nota Lake - but everyone was very reluctant to help Kinsey. They all wanted him left in peace. Don't stir things up, let things be. Kinsey seems to be getting nowhere - no clues, so she might as well pack up and go home. But then someone warns her off. Firstly there was a visual warning from a man in a hood, then Kinsey was attacked, and beaten up - but not killed. Her attacker knew how to disarm people - as an ex cop, Kinsey recognised familiar skills. Was her attacker a policeman, a colleague of Tom's ? Was that the secret ?

Kinsey goes back to Santa Theresa to recover, then returns to Nota Lake. She has a bad feeling about the place, and is scared of her attacker, and can trust no one. But Kinsey cannot allow herself to be warned off. If she gives in once, she will spend her life giving in. She is made of sterner stuff !

Kinsey survives - hopefully she has to make it to Z after all - and it all makes sense in the end. I didn't like the bit about Tom leaving a clue as to what was bothering him - the clue in the form of a numerical code. What was that about ? That apart though, I liked the book, and look forward to the next instalmant.

Back in the day to day life of Santa Theresa, there was almost warfare between Rosie and Kinsey - Rosie seemed to be neglecting her old customers for the new ones. But Kinsey got sidetracked, and nothing happened. A pity ! Perhaps we might get treated to a Rosie / Kinsey clash in the next book.






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"O" is for Outlaw,     (1999)


I read this book in November, 2015.

This is book 15 (book O) in the alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone, a female PI of Santa Theresa, written by Sue Grafton. The book had a terrific opening adding a further chunk of history to the Kinsey story. Someone had bought up a bulk lot of abandoned storage items, and had come across some personal items of Kinsey's. Did she want them back, and if so how much would she pay for them ? Kinsey doesn't go about it the simple way, but eventually she gets a letter that was never delivered to her. Her first husband Micky Magruder had an alibi after all, and had not killed the chap whose death had led to Micky leaving the police force. He had asked Kinsey to lie for him, but she refused and divorced him. The alibi was that Micky had a girlfriend Dixie, the barmaid at their local, and had spent the night with her. No wonder he had to keep that quiet - not just from Kinsey, but from Dixie's boyfriend /husband too.

Kinsey now feels that she owes something to Micky - but not too much though, as he was being unfaithfull to the young Kinsey. Now the story takes off. Someone has shot Micky, and he is lying in hospital in a coma, probably never to wake up. He seems to have been shot with an old gun of Kinsey's - and wierdly he even seems to have spoken to Kinsey recently for 30 mins per phone records. Kinsey never spoke to Micky ! Next a detective turns up to interview Kinsey. There is no way that Kinsey is not involved, and so we have a story based on the old days, and the time the old gang of fellow cops used to hang out in the Honky Tonk bar. Who from these times is trying to settle some old score ?

Kinsey sorts it out eventually. There is no happy ending for Micky and Kinsey, but closure of some sort.

The story involves buddies from the Vietnam war, and fills the whole plot, and so there is no time for further developments in Kinsey's private life. She has a few casual chats with Henry, and a few visits to Rosie's. There is no mention of Robert Dietz, and no new love interest.

Kinsey is now well and truly set in her own ways - but of course all of that can change very quickly.

It is a good, occasionally very good, series - not the very best, but original, and enjoyable, and I look forward to "P for Peril," the next instalment.






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"P" is for Peril,     (2001)


I read this book in November, 2015.

This is book 16 (book P) in the further adventures of Kinsey Millhone, PI of Santa Theresa, near LA.

Its terrific how Sue Grafton manages to put new slants on her story lines. In this case, Kinsey takes on a seemingly hopeless case. Dr Drew Purcell was the director / administrator of an "old folks home." He left there in his car one night at 9 pm, and was never seen again. That was 12 months ago. Fiona, his first wife, considered the police hopeless at finding Drew,and so she called in Kinsey. It soon appeared that Dr Purcell had been in trouble, perhaps swindling American Medicare claims. Had he disappeared or committed suicide ?

Drew's second wife was a lot younger than him - moreover, Crystal was a former stripper. What was her role in Dr Purcell's disappearance, and was she being unfaithful to him ?

The trail has gone cold, yet Kinsey speaks to everyone, trying to get a clue as to where Drew might be.

Whilst all this was going on, it seems Kinsey might need to look for new office premises - the lawyer who sublet part of his office to Kinsey was relocating, and so Kinsey may need to move. She finds an ideal place recently renovated, with a parking space, and on offer from the Hevener brothers. One of them, Tommy, seems very plausible, and very hands on, especially where Kinsey is concerned - but Tommy Hevener is a not all he seems to be. Is Kinsey about to make a terrible mistake ?

Finally, there is quite a small, but interesting role for Henry, Kinsey's 86 year old landlord and friend. When Kinsey is in trouble old Henry rushes to the rescue. Henry is a dear, always around to help and feed Kinsey when she comes home exhausted, or to rush out with a baseball bat when she screams for help. Henry is the father Kinsey never knew, about the only person Kinsey will always listen to, and to whom Kinsey never tells a lie. As I said, a good and true friend.

I thought the book could have done with an extra chapter - an epilogue - on what happened next. That apart, it's another good story from Sue Grafton. I've now read three Sue Grafton stories back to back, (I am on holiday in Australia and I want to leave as many Kinsey books as I can for my daughter in law to read) but I'll need to switch to something different. That done, I look forward to reading the Q book, the next in the series.






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"Q" is for Quarry,     (2002)


I read this book in November, 2015.

This is book 17, book Q, in the series. It's quite a long story, and quite a lot happens.

The story concerns a very old case that Lieutenent Con Dolan, and officer Stacey Oliphant had been working on some 18 year ago. Dolan, of course, was Kinsey's boss years ago when she was cop, and has appeared lots of times before in this series. The body of a very young girl was discovered near a quarry, but never identified, and her murder was never solved. Both Dolan and Stacey are now in poor health - I doubted that they would make it to the end of the book. With time on their hands, they call in Kinsey to help with some of the leg work, and all three have another go at solving an old mystery.

18 years ago is very long time, but surprisingly they do chance upon some clues that they follow up - and by the end of the book the dead girl's name is not only known, but also that of her murderer! It's a long, painstaking process, but we share the journey in detail. It's a change for Kinsey to be working as part of a team again - and she like it.

On Kinsey's personal story, her rediscovered family get closer, and now an aunt turns up. Kinsey is used to her own company, and has never known / doesn't want what she sees as family interference. But need it be black or white, could Kinsey not just have some degree of acceptable contact. Behind all this is Kinsey's formidable grandmother - Kinsey and Grand are bound to meet sometime, and sparks are sure to fly. I suspect Kinsey and Grand will be equally stubborn.

Henry, Kinsey's ancient landlord, has been on a cruise, and when he returns he seems to have acquired a girlfriend. Why not ?

At the end of the book, there is an epilogue to an epilogue. The story is based on a real one of a girl who was discovered dead in a quarry, and never identified. As a thank you for the plot, and to pay her respects to the dead girl, Sue Grafton provided financial assistance for a forensic reconstruction of the dead girl 's face - and has included four black and white photos of this in this book, in the hope that someone will recognise her, and come forward. I wonder if we will ever hear any more of this ?






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"R" is for Ricochet,     (2004)


I read this book in December, 2015.

This is book 18 (book "R") in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about Kinsey Millhone, a female PI in Santa Theresa, a fictional town about 95 miles from LA. It's quite a good series, and I am enjoying reading it, but perhaps this is not the best in the series. I kept wondering why Kinsey was persevering with Reba Lafferty - almost trying to "mother" someone who plainly didn't want to be "mothered," and I thought the ending was a bit contrived when the cavalry rode to Kinsey and Reba's rescue almost at the last gasp. Had the cavalry really been called in, they would have intervened a lot sooner, i.e. as soon as they got there, surely.

The main story starts when the very rich, but very old and in poor health, Nord Lafferty, calls in Kinsey to go and collect his rebellious daughter Reba, who is to be released after serving time in a woman's prison in California. She had embezzled money from her employer Alan Beckwith (Beck), but had been out of control for years, and always relying on rich daddy to bail her out. Kinsey agrees to the job, thinking it can't be too difficult just to collect someone, and keep an eye on them for a few days as they re-adjust to freedom and try to stick to agreed parole conditions. Reba is certainly wild, and a handful, but Kinsey and Reba hit it off. Kinsey recognises aspects of herself in Reba - Kinsey had a rebellious youth, but grew out of it. In many ways Kinsey and Reba are alike. A plus point is that Reba has good dress sense (Kinsey hasn't a clue), and helps Kinsey augment her depleted wardrobe of one black all purpose dress. At long last Kinsey has a boyfriend again - the previous so called boyfriend Robert Dietz was never around, and ignored Kinsey's telephone calls. Kinsey has known the police detective Cheney Phillips for years, but only recently has his marriage failed, and so Cheney is now available again. Kinsey and Cheney are still together at the end of the book - but I doubt if this relationship will last. It will be interesting to follow the course of this "true love" romance. Kinsey bills herself as lives alone, and likes ot that way, so how will this square with a steady boyfriend, I wonder.

Romance also seems to be in the air for Kinsey's 87 year old landlord and dear friend, Henry - Mattie, whom he met in the previous book, is still around, but Henry is not sure if he wants a companion at his age. His brother William recently married Rosie, and thinks Henry should stop hesitating, and sweep Mattie off her feet. He devises a strange plan and sends for brother Lewis. Henry and Lewis have always been competitive, and William thinks when Lewis tries to pinch Mattie, Henry will be spurred into action. However Henry is so disappointed in Mattie's interest in Lewis that he walks away. Kinsey, disappointed as Mattie and Henry seemed well suited, is furious with William and Lewis.

Back to the main story, it seems that Reba didn't embezzle any money at all - she took the fall for her boss, Beck, with whom she was madly in love. Beck of course was married, and had no intention of leaving his wife. Beck had been laundering money for some shady criminals, and when Kinsey persuades Reba that she has been fooled by Beck, Reba wants revenge. Rather that leave her to get on with it, Kinsey sticks around to help, and so Reba is now creating great danger not just for herself, but for Kinsey too.

Of course, it all works out in the end !






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"S" is for Silence,     (2005)


I read this book in December, 2015.

This is book 19 (book "S") in Sue Grafton's alphabet series about the life and adventures of a female private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, set in Santa Theresa, some 95 miles from LA. It's a good series, and this is a worthy member of the series.

Once again Kinsey is introduced to her client by two friends and former police colleagues - Con Dolan and Stacey Oliphant. Accordingly, she sort of feels obliged to take the case, but she doesn't really want to. The case is 34 years old, so there is not much hope now ! Kinsey doesn't want to take a case where she is bound to fail. Violet Sullivan, a good time girl, wife and mother, drove off in her new car, and was never seen again. Daisy, her daughter felt abandoned and unloved. Her mum Violet took her dog with her when she left, but left Daisy behind. Daisy has been in analysis ever since. She wants Kinsey to see what she can do. Is her mother still alive, and if so, can she be traced ?

Kinsey immerses herself in the case, interviews everyone, follows up on everything, fills in her record cards and slowly gets to know Violet. She really was a good time time girl, turned heads wherever she went, slept around, but had a jealous husband who usually beat her. Against all the odds, Kinsey seems to be getting somewhere - someone has slashed her car tyres to warn her off. Not only does Kinsey find Violet, but she keeps going to find out who attacked Violet and why.

The main plot of the missing Violet takes up most of the book, so little happens in Kinsey's private life. Henry is now taking girlfriends out to the cinema, and has a chat to Kinsey. Cheney, Kinsey's boyfriend, chats to Kinsey on the phone - but that's it. Perhaps their love affair is dying ? I'd thought there should be more in the next book, but I started reading this series with book T, and don't recall any dramatic Kinsey / Cheney developments.

One final comment perhaps. What was the fate of Kinsey's trusty old VW? Was it an obvious write off ? I'd like to have been told.






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"T" is for Trespass,     (2007)


I read this book in April, 2015.

This is book 20 in Sue Grafton's "alphabet" series about a female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, based in fictitious Santa Teresa (i.e. Santa Barbara), a small town in California about 95 miles from LA. This is the first book in the series that I have read. Usually I start with book one in any series, but Jacqui, my daughter-in-law, read this book, liked it, and sent me a copy to see what I made of it. Overall I thought it was OK, not brilliant, but quite acceptable / good. I liked Kinsey most of the time, but at times I thought she should really have been more assertive. At times she seemed too law abiding / reluctant to bend a few rules, to be a successful private investigator.

The previous book that I was reading was book one in the Cotswold Mysteries series where Rebecca Tope writes about Thea Osborne, and her dog. It was A Cotswold Killing , and I didn't like the book at all. It was the first book that I had read where a female author was writing about a female detective. I thought that perhaps that combination was not for me. But now "T is for Trespass" is another female author / female detective combination - and happily I thought it was a lot better.

In this book 20, Kinsey has been twice divorced, and apparently doesn't have a love interest at this time. Mostly she seems to handle small, day to day, legal matters - e.g. she delivers court summons, works for lawyers doing character background checks, looks for missing witnesses, etc. I thought that this was one of the good things about this book - it painted what I thought must be a realistic picture of the day to day routine of being a private investigator. Kinsey doesn't seem to take on the drug cartels, nor the mafia, nor the sort of clients that her LA neighbours Elvis Cole and Joe Pike seem to get. I did think Kinsey could have done with a business partner for company / back up / to keep watch - but she prefers to work alone.

The main story is about someone calling herself Solana Rojas who works as a nurse / carer for the old and frail, but drugs them, gets them confused, and appropriates any assets they might have. Solana is completely amoral, but she does look after her own mentally handicapped son 'Tiny'.

Kinsey had done a quick character check on Solana, but missed all of this. Solana arrives to look after Gus, a neighbour of Kinsey's, and for most of the book Kinsey is out-thought by Solana who always seems several steps ahead. Kinsey just doesn't seem to appreciate that Gus needs help, and urgently. Kinsey has a bad day, and is reduced to tears. I thought a real p.i. would have to harden up. But eventually Kinsey gets her act together when it matters, fights her corner, and prevails. Against the odds, she triumphs over Solana and Tiny.

Sue Grafton is a competent, award winning writer, and I liked Kinsey Millhone. I have already got "A is for alibi", so I'll read that next, and follow the story from the beginning.

I don't think it's going to be an epic series, but it's different, and realsitic, I think, and I'll read on. Kinsey is no Rebus , nor Morse , nor Dalgleish , but its a big world, and there is plenty of room for a Kinsey Millhone too.






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"U" is for Undertow,     (2009)


I read this book in January, 2016.

This is book 21 in Sue Grafton's "alphabet" series about a female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, based in fictitious Santa Teresa (i.e. Santa Barbara), a small town in California about 95 miles from LA. I started reading this series about nine months ago when Jacqui, my daughter-in-law, sent me a copy of book 20, "T is for Trespass". Without going overboard, I liked the book, and started reading the series "A" to "S", so now I have caught up. The previous book I read was "S for Silence" and that ended without us knowing what had happened to Kinsey's trusty Volkswagen car. Now we know it was a write off, and Kinsey now drives a blue 1970 Mustang convertible - not the most inconspicuous of cars for surveillance work !

This is quite a big book, and it's a good story, told partly in present time (ie 1988 when Kinsey is about to turn 38) and partly in flashback to the 1960's. In present time Kinsey takes on a new client, a Michael Sutton, who comes to her via Cheney Philips with a strange tale. Some 20 years ago, when he was playing out back of a friends house as a six year old, he had come across two adults who said they were pirates burying treasure in a hole they had dug. Now he has seen a recent reference to the kidnapping of a little girl that took place at that time. Mary Claire was never returned, nor ever seen again, and Michael wondered if he had chanced upon the kidnappers burying her body. He wants Kinsey to help him answer that question. And so Kinsey is once again investigating a 20 year old mystery.

Kinsey does find the burial spot, but that is just the start of the story - Kinsey sees an old black and white photograph of Mary Claire and the child's eyes seem to look straight at Kinsey, and reduce Kinsey to tears. She simply has to keep going.

Whilst the present time search goes on, we get a series of flashback stories from the 1960s. First we meet Deborah Unruh in 1963 when her son Greg turns up as a hippie in an old battered yellow bus with girlfriend Shelly and Shelly's little boy Shawn. Shelly and Deborah hate each other, but Shelly is pregnant with Greg's baby. The baby is born later, a little girl called Rain, and we follow everyone's story up to present time. Did Greg and Shelly later kidnap Rain back from Deborah, and did they go on to kidnap Mary Claire? Now we meeet Walter McNally in present time, but why are we told his story ? Kinsey had been at school with Walter and his best friend Jon Onslow. We now get Jon's story. Why ? And soon Con Dolan phones Kinsey to ask why Kinsey is poking her nose into an old case of his. In short, is its a complicated, well crafted story, that builds to a terrific and satisfying ending.

There is also a satisfying ending to the Kinsey / Grand story - will Kinsey and her grandmother meet, and will sparks fly. I should correct myself - perhaps it's more an understandable ending than a satisfying one. There are no further developments in Kinsey's love life - still non existent. Henry, Rosie, and William all make guest appearances.

And so, that's another book down, and now only five more to read. It's definitely a good series, and I am enjoying reading these books. How will the series end ? We must read on.






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"V" is for Vengeance,     (2011)


I read this book in March, 2016.

This is book 22 (book "V") in Sue Grafton's "alphabet" series about a female private investigator Kinsey Millhone

The book opens with a flash back to 1986. Philip Lanahan has borrowed $10k from a loan shark Lorenzo Dante. The stupid boy believes he is good at gambling, but loses all his money, or rather Dante's money. Dante wants the money back, and asks his brother Cappi to take care of things. Psychopath Cappi has Philip killed, but it is made to look like suicide. Only at the end of the book do we find that Philip was the dearly loved son of Nora. Jumping ahead, we will meet Nora, and she will meet Dante, and the two will fall in love. But could her love overcome her despair at the loss of a son. At the end of the book, Dante's empire is crumbling, and he is to make a run for it. He is on a private plane, just about to fly to freedom, but waiting for Nora. How can she possibly join him. You will have to read the book to see what happens.

We now jump to current time. It is May, 5th, 1988, and Kinsey's 38th birthday. Her birthday present is a punch in the face - a busted nose, and two black eyes. We have to read most of the book to find out who punched Kinsey and why.

Now we are back a few weeks in 1988. Kinsey is shopping, and sees a professional shoplifter at work. Kinsey helps to get Audrey Vance arrested, but Audrey's accomplice gets away, after running down Kinsey in the process. Then, like Philip, Audrey apparently commits suicide. Audrey's boyfriend, Marvin Stryker , employs Kinsey to investigate the suicide - he is in denial, and can't accept that Audrey was a professional crook.

Kinsey starts to investigate, and soon finds organised crime is involved - and behind all this is Lorenzo Dante. But here there is strange twist. Lorenzo is a reformed guy, lectures professionally, and seems a better bet that some of the police investigationg him. So, at the end, we are on Dante's side, and we are rooting for him to get away, with or without Nora at his side.

It's a long story that held my intetest throughout.

Sadly, there are not many Henry / Kinsey interactions. Henry has gone to look after his elder sister Nell who is having a hip replacement. This leaves Kinsey all alone, and vulnerable. Rosie's food is just as inedible as always, and her wine worse. Why does Kinsey continue to go to Rosie's, and pay for food she will throw away? Now that is a mystery !

Sometimes a book title seems to have nothing to to do with the story, but here, "V" for vengeance is spot on. Pinky is Kinsey's friend, and when his girlfriend is shot, Pinky definitely wants vengeance, no matter at what cost. Kinsey thinks she can save Pinky, but it's too dangerous. So we come back to the punch in Kinsey's face, and Kinsey is down, but safe. All in all, a well structured, satisfying tale.






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"W" is for Wasted,     (2013)


I read this book in April, 2016.

We are now up to the "W" book - Kinsey Millhone, now 38, is as old as she is ever going to be. I guess we must now be nearing the last leg.

I thought this was a good book, another worthy member of a really good series. I might have described this as an excellent book, but it was let down by a few niggling little things. Sue Grafton seems to have developed an annoying habit of writing in lists - could this be to pad out the narrative ? It is not necessary, and very annoying when overdone. We also have an excess of recapping - perhaps lots of characters taking another curtain call, but we are not quite at the end of the series yet. Thus, Kinsey's three boyfriends all make an appearance - Robert Dietz for a quick visit, and then he is off again, Cheney Philips, and Jonah Robb. Finally, I would have liked a stronger ending - nothing wrong with the ending, really, but it could / should have been better.

Overall though, I liked the story, the main plot, the private life of Kinsey sub plot, and that Henry was allowed to remain throughout the book - and not packed off on some visit. Henry now has a cat - Ed the cat - and Kinsey is just as besotted and as much Ed's servant as Henry. Still if Elvis Cole and Joe Pike , just down the road, can have a cat, so can Kinsey and Henry.

It's a well structured series, and this is a well constructed book. The series starts with Kinsey an orphan with no family, totally self sufficient, and she likes it that way. This independence defines her character. Then relatives on her mum's side appear, and Kinsey doesn't quite like that - she is still mostly ignoring them, and is in self denial. Now, to provide balance, relatives on her dad's side appear in the shape of three distant cousins Ethan, Anna, and Ellen. Unfortunately Kinsey is not meeting them in the best of circumstances !

The story opens with the death of two men - Peter Wolinsky, a crooked PI whom Kinsy knew, and also with the death of a homeless alcoholic by the name of P.T Dace, whom Kinsey did not know. We are now told that the death of one of these characters changed Kinsey's life forever - so of course we have to read on to see what this is all about.

The homeless alcoholic is found dead, but on his body is a slip of paper with Kinsey's name and address. She is called in to identify the body, but of course, can't help. It is thought that he possibly wanted to hire a PI, and chanced upon Kinsey. But his connection is a lot more personal

The story of Pete Wolinsky is told separately, and in flash back. Of course, the two stories turn out to have a strange connection. Kinsey is having a quiet time, work wise, and so has the time to take an interest, and follow up leads, and so the tale takes off.

The story builds to a sort of climax, with Kinsey fighting for her life, but just when she prevails, Cheney steps out the bushes, and tells Kinsey that that is enough. If he was there all the time, why on earth did he not help Kinsey sooner ?

We end the story with cousin Anna, whom Kinsey doesn't like, turning up in Santa Theresa, and conning kind hearted Henry into having her as a lodger. Unfinished business there - roll on the next book.






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"X" ,     (2015)


I read this book in October, 2016.

We are now up to the "X" book, and at the time of writing this, I have now read and enjoyed all the published books in the series with "Y" and "Z" still to be written and published. Fingers crossed, we will get to read them soon. It's 1989, Kinsey Millhone is still 38, as old as she is ever going to be. This book follows on directly from the previous book, and in the main, tells three stories. Firstly Kinsey takes over the deceased PI Pete Wolinsky's investigation into Ned Lowe, secondly, the "X" of the title standing for Teddy and Ari Xanakis, divorced but still fighting, and thirdly a back story about Henry trying to save water, and new neighbour Edna.

This "X" book reads as if we are nearing the end of the series, and some of the characters we have met before, reappear, as if to take a curtain call. The sporting crowd seem to have moved on from Rosie's bar, leaving it a lot quieter. It is now frequented by off duty police officers. So, we meet Cheney Phillips again, and, surprise, surprise, his new girlfriend is Kinsey's cousin Anna Dace. Kinsey later chats to Dietz on the phone - it's time he and Kinsey met up once again.

Firstly the Ned Lowe story. Pete Wolinsky's widow Ruthie gets in touch with Kinsey reference a tax investigation, and asks her to go through some of his old storage boxes. Kinsey cannot find anything that would help Ruthie, but she does find a message in code (deciphered by Henry) and a mysterious package hidden by Pete in a secret compartment and addressed to Ned Lowe's daughter, but obviously never delivered. Kinsey decides to deliver it, but first must do some digging to check that she is doing the right thing. She finds out a lot about Ned Lowe, a very dangerous character indeed. People who cross Ned Lowe tend to end up dead, and Kinsey has just put her life in danger. Kinsey had never rated Pete Wolinsky - she thought he cut too many corners to the point of being crooked - but here she eventually comes to revise her opinion of Wolinsky.

The "X" of the title seems to stand for the now divorced Xanakis couple Teddy and Ari. Teddy and Ari, and Douglas and Stella were good friends, but after Douglas died, Ari felt sorry for Stella, one thing lead to another, Teddy found out her husband was sleeping with her best friend, and rushed into instant divorce proceedings. That was years ago, but Teddy and Ari have been fighting ever since, each trying to score against the other. The book opens with Teddy planning to steal a painting from Ari that she thought had unfairly found its way into his share of the divorce split. The painting was possibly worth a fortune, but Ari had no idea. We then switch to Kinsey. She is now a rich woman, more or less, but hates idleness and wants to carry on her PI work. She is contacted by a "Hallie Bettancourt" who spins Kinsey an elaborate tale, and now wants to find her son, just recently released from prison. It's a simple job, and Kinsey gets a $200 retainer in the form of two $100 notes. This is dirty money, and the police have been waiting for some of these notes to turn up. What is "Hallie" up to, why has she involved Kinsey, and why has she disappeared ?

Finally the back story about Kinsey's private life - and sadly still no love interest for Kinsey. There is a drought in the region, and everyone has been asked to save water. Henry goes overboard with water conservation, grey water recycling, etc, but in spite of all his elaborate attempts, Henry's water usage remains unchanged. Henry and Kinsey have a new neighbour - an 80 year old Edna and her invalid husband. Edna soon takes advantage of Henry, and has him running errands and ferrying her about. Kinsey is not fooled, but can't refuse Henry. Of course, Edna is not all she claims to be.

"X" is a long, satisfying book for those of us who are Kinsey Millhone fans. There is no real "crooks go to jail" justice at the end, just the compromises of life.

I liked the book, I like the series, and roll on "Y is for ....."






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Kinsey and Me,     (2013)


I read this book in July, 2017.

I really like Sue Grafton's alphabet series about her alter ego, Kinsey Millhone, the PI. At the time of writing I have read all the series up to and including "X," and like all the other fans am waiting none too patiently for "Y" and "Z." I do hope Sue manages to complete the whole series. Whilst waiting I chanced upon a related book, "Kinsey and Me," a second version of which had been published in 2013. This is a nice little book in two parts. In part one - "Kinsey" - we have a collection of 9 Kinsey Millhone short stories, published at various times through the years. In part two - the "and Me" part - we have another collection of short stories about Sue Grafton's personal life, searingly painful and I suspect brutally honest. It's a desperately sad story of two alcoholics, Sue's mum and dad, and of a failing family, but somehow Sue Grafton finally managed to emerge somewhat intact.

I don't really like short stories - I find them a poor substitute lacking the meat of a proper novel. One of the joys of the Kinsey Millhone series is to follow the lives and troubles of a related cast of characters. In these short stories there is only one sentence about Henry, Kinsey's 82 year old landlord - the only father Kinsey knew. Otherwise there is nothing, and I sort of feel cheated. That said though, I quite liked the stories, of course some better than others.

The book opens with a preface and an introduction where Sue writes about the craft of crime fiction. Sue got the name "Kinsey" from a section of birth anouncements in the local paper. Kinsey ages about one year per 2.5 books. This way she can still run around 26 books later. I liked the first short story "Between the Sheets." Emily Culpepper walks into Kinsey's PI office and tells her that she has found her lover's dead body in her daughter's bed. Her story seems to imply that Emily did the murder - she touched the gun, has no alibi, she quarrelled with her lover, there was a public shouting match, etc, etc. Kinsey leaves Emily with a lawyer, and goes round to her flat, but there is no body there. It's a real puzzle eventually solved by Kinsey with help from Emily's young daughter. "The Parker Shotgun" is a strange story where a pregnant lady wants to know who killed her drug taking partner. It revolved around a very expensive shotgun, stolen and used to pay off a drug debt. Kinsey steals it back and gives it to her client, and the story ends. What happened next ? That couldn't be the end !

"Falling off the Roof" was a silly story with a terrible abrupt ending. Kinsey knew that Don Grisson had been pushed off the roof by a friend of his wife - the wife got $250k insurance money. All the wife's book club members seemed implicated and chased Kinsey down the street waving clubs. Kinsey ducked into the police headquarters, and the story ended ! Again what happened next ? I did like "A poison that leaves no trace" where Marge's sister "Sis" claims Marge's daughter Justine poisoned Marge. "Sis" isn't who she claims to be, a double crosser gets double crossed, but all Kinsey gets is $60 for hours of work. I also liked "A little missionary work" although it was all a bit far fetched. Kinsey raised $500k for one of a celebrity pair to pay a ransome demand, but it was all a scam. However there was a lovely sting in the tail when the scammers got their just deserts. At least this was a good story with a proper ending.

The final third of the book is Sue Grafton's personal story told via some short stories featuring Kit Beale (the young Sue Grafton), her older sister Mel, her father "daddy" and her mother Vanessa. There is no pretence that Kit is anyone other than Sue herself. Sometimes Sue writes about Kit in the third person, and sometimes she just writes "I". We have a young girl left to fend for herself (and run wild ?) by two alcoholic parents. The father was a gifted lawyer but why did he drink. And why did Vanessa drink ? Vanessa spent her life almost comatose with drink and smoking. Occassionally she might be sober for a couple of days when discharged from hospital, and then she was bright, sparkly and well liked. But always back to the drink and smoking. Kit had to be mother to her mother in a cruel role reversal, and the father never stepped in to rescue Kit. Eventually cancer claimed Vanessa although the actual end is when she commits suicide. The father marries again, to the dreadful, cruel Mildrid. Sue writes of painful scenes, her mothers death, her home being sold and knocked down, and of a failing family never being able to speak honestly to each other. Kit has two failed marriages. She eventually escaped to the west Coast of America. But amongst all the anguish there is an occasional good memory. Kit / Sue at the age of four was in hospital to get her tonsils removed. She writes of coming back from the operation, and with her eyes still shut, calling "I want my daddy" and for once her daddy was there - Kit grasped and held on to his finger, and was so grateful that that surge of joy could be recalled 30 years later.

As a fan of Kinsey and Sue, I liked the book, but I am not sure what those who are not fans will make of it all. I think you have got to read the Kinsey Millhone books first to appreciate how much Kinsey is Sue's alter ego. Kinsey doesn't want family contact - she is managing fine by herself - and you can see why.






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