Sue Grafton has got to be one satisfied lady, to have made a solid writing career out of one iconic character. She and her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone, started back in 1982 with A is for Alibi, followed quickly thereafter with B is for Burglar and C is for Corpse. And that’s when I started reading her. I own quite a few books in hardcover, including her latest, V is for Vengeance.
It’s no news to anybody that Kinsey lives in an alternate universe, where the earth takes quite a bit longer to circle the sun than it does in ours. Kinsey started out in 1982 investigating the death of a divorce lawyer. She was 32 then, cutting her hair with her nail scissors and living in jeans and sneakers. Me? I was 27. As I recall, my hair was naturally golden, I had a truly terrible perm, and I was still trying to lose the weight from my first baby. Kinsey was a full five years older then I was.
Flash forward to today. I sat down to read V is for Vengeance, the 22nd book in the series. It is 2012 and I am (gulp) 57. The hair? Silver, not gold. Still trying to lose the baby weight, though. The baby’s 30.
Kinsey? She’s 38. Damn her. She’s still wearing that all-purpose black polyester dress that only requires a shake to render it wrinkle-free. She’s personally without wrinkles, as well, although she does get more than her fair share of black eyes and bruises – this outing, even a broken nose. Of course, in the Grafton Universe, it’s only 1988. Time goes very, very slowly there. No cell phones. No personal computers. No Google. Kinsey’s still looking things up in the reverse directory and knocking on doors.
The book is a good read, of course. That goes without saying. A little darker than usual, in my opinion. Starts with a bit of a prologue – college kid thinks he’s a big-shot gambler, runs up a tab he can’t pay, and goons throw him off a roof. Awk. Who are these people? You won’t really know everything you need to know for a couple of hundred pages.
In the meantime, Kinsey spies a shoplifter, ends up getting hired by the mysterious shoplifter’s heartbroken fiance after she supposedly commits suicide, picks around until she uncovers a bigger, more impactful crime. In a separate plot thread, a mobster tries to deal with his big lunk of a stupidhead brother and falls in love with the lovely but sad wife of a cheating husband who owes him money.
Confused? You won’t be. Grafton keeps it all straight, you’ll follow her through all the twists and turns and there’s a surprise you don’t expect at the end. It’s funny, with funny characters, but not over the top. Definite thumbs up.
I don’t know what Sue Grafton will do when she gets to Z. Start over with AA (bra size? batteries?). Or perhaps start in Greek: Alpha is for Arrivederci could be a multilingual hit. She could start at 1; then again, Janet Evanovich might have that tied up. In interviews and on her website, she declines to speculate.