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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Favorite Authors - Sue Grafton

The first "alphabet" detective novel by Sue Grafton was published and set in 1982 and the latest was published in 2007, but set in 1987, so while time has passed for us, it has moved much more slowly for Kinsey Millhone, a PI in fictional Santa Teresa, California, who doggedly tracks down killers and cheats, even when the crimes are years old. She's an independent woman with trust issues regarding men, except where her close neighbor, Henry, is concerned. Henry is a vigorous octogenarian, a retired baker, who rents his garage studio apartment to Kinsey. He and Rosie, at whose restaurant Kinsey hangs out, provide the closest thing Kinsey has to family. 

In the earlier books, to dress up, Kinsey would put a jacket on over her black turtleneck with jeans, and cut her hair with nail scissors. She's moved up a little bit in style since then, but still keeps it simple and real. Like all good detectives, she's observant and picks up on the small things and takes a lot of notes. She keeps in shape by jogging, which is good, because she's fond of cheeseburgers with fries. She can handle a gun, thanks to her training and couple years spent on the police force, but while mostly law-abiding, she does what she needs to do to get inside and get at the truth.

The crimes described in these novels are carefully crafted, and reading them is an education in not only how to commit a crime and how to solve a crime, but also how to avoid being the victim of a crime. The author has acquired an amazing knowledge of the inner workings of all kinds of companies, government agencies, and investigative procedures. I think a PI could study Kinsey's methods and get plenty of ideas on how to do the job. Things are different now, of course. We are 25 years ahead of her in time. Kinsey doesn't use a computer, and while they are starting to be mentioned, she scoffs at the idea that they could be useful. There are still 6 letters of the alphabet left, so 6 more stories until the final one,  Z is for Zero. It will be interesting to see when and whether Kinsey ends up using a computer or the early Internet to help solve a mystery.

Her latest novel, T is for Trespass, addresses the problems the elderly and their families have finding caregivers, and how easy it is for the unscrupulous to take advantage of them. The criminal in this book knows how to steal other people's identities,while hiding her own, and how to manipulate people and situations. It is clear that the author considers this villain to be completely evil. It is Kinsey herself who looks into the woman's credentials and okays her employment, a move she will later regret, and one that puts her grumpy neighbor Gus's life in danger.

You don't have to start at the beginning or read these in order. Each book stands nicely on its own. Kinsey likes having closure.

Kinsey Millhone series
"A" Is for Alibi (1982)
"B" Is for Burglar (1985)
"C" Is for Corpse (1986)
"D" Is for Deadbeat (1987)
"E" Is for Evidence (1988)
"F" Is for Fugitive (1989)
"G" Is for Gumshoe (1990)
"H" Is for Homicide (1991)
"I" Is for Innocent (1992)
"J" Is for Judgment (1993)
"K" Is for Killer (1994)
"L" Is for Lawless (1995)
"M" Is for Malice (1996)
"N" Is for Noose (1998)
"O" Is for Outlaw (1999)
"P" Is for Peril (2001)
"Q" Is for Quarry (2002)
"R" Is for Ricochet (2004)
"S" Is for Silence (2005)
"T" Is for Trespass (2007)

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