“Z” is for Zero – No more.
I finished reading the series and I thought I would summarize what I’ve learned from Sue Grafton’s books. She began writing in 1982 and died in 2017. That’s 35 years to write 26 books. Some writers pen 3 to 4 books a year, but Grafton did a lot of research and you could always count on learning the details of a subject in her stories. She liked description and used it for locations, buildings, clothing, and the characters.
Even if you don’t use a lot of description, a few lines help to set the place, person, and mood of the story.
Grafton wasn’t afraid of trying new things. The earlier stories followed a traditional detective or PI point of view as Kinsey is hired to find out who killed someone, and she has to interview the suspects, watch for lies, and make notes of the clues until a final showdown with the bad guy, escaping with her life and capturing the killer.
Many times the original murder occurred years before and in later books, she uses other POVs to flip back and forth between the past and present to flesh out the other characters beyond observation and help explain any motives. Sometimes her plots are complex and other times she gives us a breather with only a few characters and a simple plot. Don’t follow the same old formula when writing a series. Kinsey’s personal life is doled out over the series, and she adds friends to her circle with more of them becoming regulars as the series progresses. Jonah, Cheney and Dietz move in and out of her love life, and it would have been nice to see how they all ended up in “Z” or if Grafton would have left us guessing. I’ll add Henry to a possible husband although Kinsey laments their age difference. What does it matter as she gets older?
Grafton showed how to keep even a lone wolf like Kinsey surrounded by interesting people. She ended up in trouble more than once helping out her friends. Some of her later books had multiple story lines that tied together in the end. It takes skill to keep the stories clear and bring them together logically and smoothly. Grafton also used current events and social issues in her stories like Medicare fraud, mental illness, and abuse of the elderly. Look to the news for story ideas.
In the end, she made us care about Kinsey and that’s what a great writer does. No matter how intricate the plot, no matter how beautiful the setting, give the reader a reason to fall in love with your main character.
Do you have a favorite author you would recommend to others?