Crime Fiction Alphabet: G is for Sue Grafton

This week’s letter in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet is the Letter G.

Sue Grafton is the author of the alphabet- titled series of books featuring Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator. So far there are 22 books in the series covering the letters A – V. For the full list see Sue Grafton’s website.

The books are set in and around the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California, based on Santa Barbara, where Grafton has a home in the suburb of Montecito. She was born in 1940, the daughter of detective novelist C. W. Grafton. She began writing at the age of 18 and before writing the Kinsey Millhone novels she was a TV scriptwriter. I think it’s remarkable that her novels have been published in 28 countries and in 26 languages, including Bulgarian and Indonesian, but she has no wish to sell the film and television rights to her books. Based on the one book of hers that I’ve read, A is for Alibi, I think they would make an excellent TV series, but maybe it’s a good decision. TV adaptations have a most irritating tendency of changing plots and the characters rarely match up to my mental images! 

A is for Alibi was first published in 1982.

Synopsis from Grafton’s website:

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few mourned his passing. A prominent divorce attorney with a reputation for single-minded ruthlessness on behalf of his clients, Fife was also rumored to be a dedicated philanderer. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had a reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access, and opportunity, Nikki was their number one suspect. The jury thought so too.

Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who really killed her late husband.

A trail that is eight years cold. A trail that reaches out to enfold a bitter, wealthy, and foul-mouthed old woman and a young boy, born deaf, whose memory cannot be trusted. A trail that leads to a lawyer defensively loyal to a dead partner’”and disarmingly attractive to Millhone; to an ex-wife, brave, lucid, lovely’”and still angry over Fife’s betrayal of her; to a not-so-young secretary with too high a salary for too few skills’”and too many debts left owing: The trail twists to include every turn until it finally twists back on itself with a killer cunning enough to get away with murder.

My view:

I thought this was a well constructed and convincing murder mystery. Kinsey is a likeable, strong character. In this first book she comes across as a loner. She’s 32, twice divorced with no children or pets, or indeed any ties, although she does have plenty of friends and contacts who help out with her investigations and she goes jogging – a lot. There are  some cameos of characters, who I suspect feature in the later books. There is her landlord Henry Pitts, a former baker aged 81 who makes a living devising crossword puzzles. Kinsey is ‘halfway in love’ with Henry.

It’s a fast-paced book, easy to read and with no gory details, which I have to skim read in other books (the equivalent of watching the TV  behind my fingers). I liked it and now will have to find the other books in the series.

8 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: G is for Sue Grafton”

  1. Hello Margaret

    I have read the whole series and thoroughly recommend them – I think the later ones are even better than the first few – I am about half way through V is for Vendetta!

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  2. I read A – F in the series back in the eighties, then did not keep up with them. I now have an omnibus with G, H, and I and hope to get back into them. Good review. Encourages me to continue.

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  3. I have never read her books, can you believe it? I have my nose stuck in vintage books too much I guess. I even had one of hers on the shelf for a while.

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  4. I have never read a Sue Grafton book either even though I have seen then on bookshelves on countless occasions. Thanks for the review. I think I’ll grab one the next time I see it. I also think she has the coolest set of book titles ever with the whole A-Z alphabet theme. That was such a great idea.

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  5. Margaret – To me, Sue Grafton is one of those consistent authors whose work almost never lets me down. I admit I’ve liked some of her novels better than others. But none of them has really disappointed and I do love the Kinsey Millhone character.

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