Alphabet Soup

Huge sigh of relief – the holidays are over! Now, back to business. 

Before the break, I was reviewing some of the books I read during the Fall into Reading program. Today’s review encompasses a series of books by Sue Grafton. Her series of mysteries began with A is for Alibi and marches straight through the alphabet. I think she’s up to U now, but I’m not sure. I’m also not sure what she calls her series (Alphabet Mysteries? Millhone Mysteries?) because it’s not printed on the front of the book, like most series do. However. For Fall into Reading, I wanted to read O is for Outlaw. I actually managed to read O, P, Q, R, and S over the autumn months, and today the library just informed me that it’s my turn to read T is for Trespass. I’m looking forward to it.

First, the unpleasant stuff. The Grafton series isn’t Biblically moral. Several books in the series contain sex scenes, although they aren’t graphic. They kind of remind me of the old movies, where the Extremely Handsome Male Lead picks up the Gorgeous Female Lead and carries her off to the bedroom, slamming the door with his foot. In the next scene, he’s leaving the bedroom, a cigarette in his mouth as he tucks him his partially unbuttoned shirt. Well, maybe Grafton takes it a little further than that, but not too much. I was not offended by the sex scenes, but I could have lived without them. Also, her crime scenes are somewhat gruesome and graphic, and at times, the bad guys get violent with the protagonist. Those scenes didn’t bother me, either, but I know some Christians would have a hard time with Grafton’s books because of these unpleasant things.

So what keeps me coming back to them? The protagonist is amazing. Kinsey Millhone is an unorthodox ex-cop private investigator who gets sucked into these seemingly sublime mysteries, only to find them much more intriguing, twisted, and down-right dangerous than she first thought. Kinsey is likable, sympathetic, and has a moral standard that she sticks to. It’s not the same standard as mine, sure, but she’s got her own version of right and wrong, and it sides with law and order. She’s also stuck in the ’80’s: the series began in the early 80’s, and there’s only three to six months between each story, so real time passed her by quickly. Bottom line, Kinsey doesn’t have a cell phone, or internet access, or affordable bugging equipment… she does it all the hard way.  

The mysteries are also engaging. In the entire series, I’ve guessed at ‘who-dun-it’ for every book, and guessed wrong more than half the time! And I’m pretty good at guessing mysteries, so I love the challenge. Grafton brings all the characters to life, so much that I feel I know them by the end of the story. She’s always got multiple suspects, and they all have believable motives and opportunity. There’s almost always one clue that gives the whole puzzle away, and like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Grafton puts the clue in plain sight but disguises it as ordinary. 

Bottom line: I really like this series. The problem with mysteries, though, is that once you know who-dun-it, it’s no fun to read again. I haven’t purchased any of these books because they’re readily available at the local library, and I probably won’t read them a second time. But they were worth the ride the first time around!
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