X by Sue Grafton


There was a time when I avidly read and re-read Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone books.

For those not aware, here is a brief introduction to the series. Way back in 1982, Sue Grafton published A is for Alibi – the first of a series of alphabet mysteries featuring private eye Kinsey Millhone.

This book became a huge hit, and Grafton followed up this success with other books B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, and so on. You get the drift. It’s now 2017, and I just finished reading the latest in this series X – published in 2015.

Anyway, my enthusiasm for the Kinsey Millhone series has waned a bit in recent years – somewhere past Q is for Quarry, I felt that the series was starting to drag and get repetitive. I still continued reading these books because of my strong affection for the early Kinsey books, and, I guess these books have by now just become a habit.

The synopsis of X also sounded pretty interesting, and I hoped that with this book, the series would pick up again.

Book Synopsis

When a glamorous red head wishes to locate the son she put up for adoption thirty-two years ago, it seems like an easy two hundred bucks for P. I. Kinsey Millhone. But when a cop tells her she was paid with marked bills, and Kinsey’s client is nowhere to be found, it becomes apparent this mystery woman has something to hide. Riled, Kinsey won’t stop until she’s found out who fooled her and why.

Meanwhile, the widow of the recently murdered P. I. – and Kinsey’s old friend – Pete Wolinsky, needs help with her IRS audit. This seemingly innocuous task takes a treacherous turn when Kinsey finds a coded list amongst her friend’s files. It soon leads her to an unhinged man with a catalogue of ruined lives left in his wake. And despite the devastation, there isn’t a single conviction to his name. It seems this sociopath knows exactly how to cause chaos without leaving a trace.

As Kinsey delves deeper into the investigation she quickly becomes the next target of this tormentor. But can Kinsey prove her case against him before she becomes the next victim?

~ Synopsis from goodreads

The book started with a bang, rattled off in fine style until page 50 or so, and then just got mired in Kinsey’s daily routines. There is a lot of filler – Rosie, Henry, his long-lived siblings, her 3 mile jogs, Hungarian food, her tiny house, her lack of fashion sense, and so on. If you’ve read this series, all this will be very familiar to you. It was unfortunately way too familiar to me. Grafton has always had an overly descriptive style of writing, but I’ve forgiven it in the past, simply because the mysteries were just so good. In this book, the filler was just excruciating – she describes every single thing in detail. The result is that the book and Kinsey sound so mundane.

What was even more disappointing were the different mysteries in the book. There are three unconnected mysteries:

  1. Kinsey is hired by a woman who tells her that she wants her illegitimate son, who has recently been released from prison.
  2. There is a mysterious packet that she finds hidden among the files in a fellow detective Pete’s box.
  3. Finally, there is the elderly couple who have moved in next door, and who seem to be taking advantage of Kinsey’s landlord Henry.

What do these mysteries have in common? The fact that they are lackluster, and the plots seem recycled from earlier books in the series. Worse still, one of the key mysteries, ends in the lamest way, very obviously seguing into the next book. Unless this is really very well done (like in some of John Sandford’s books), I really like my crime novel to end the mystery in a single book – especially when the mystery itself is not strong enough.

This book would have been so much better if it had focused on one core mystery, and ended that in a strong way, instead of diluting its energies with three meh storylines.

In short, give this book a miss (even if you are a Kinsey Millhone fan).

4 Responses
  • bermudaonion(Kathy)
    March 20, 2017

    I used to love this series too but haven’t kept up with it lately. Sorry to see you didn’t love this book.

    • Nishita
      March 21, 2017

      @bermudaonion_kathy:disqus Sometimes, I wonder why I have kept up so faithfully with this series.

  • James Viscosi
    March 19, 2017

    I actually never got past “A is for Alibi”. Maybe she got thrown by not being able to figure out what “X” was for … 😉

    • Nishita
      March 20, 2017

      @jamesviscosi:disqus Actually, the book has a gazillion X references, any of which could have been worked into the title. I think she bit off more than she could chew trying to get 26 books on the same theme.

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