“Z” is for Zero

“Z” is for Zero – No more.

A CraftonI 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.IMG_0943 (2)

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?

“Y” is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

“Y” is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton 2017

This was the longest of Grafton’s novels at 483 pages and she often repeated the story about the night Sloan is murdered by her classmates Troy, Fritz, Austin and Baynard. Grafton uses flashbacks to 1979 and then returns to 1989 where Kinsey is asked to investigate a sex tape sent to Fritz after serving eight years for shooting Sloan.IMG_0943 (2)

Grafton uses the Climping Academy to show us the spoiled young people who party with alcohol and dope and spin their lives out of control. The plot of Iris stealing a proficiency test so her friend Poppy and Troy can move onto their senior year turns into a shunning of Sloan and her ultimate death when she steals the sex tape to stop Austin from bullying them. Grafton gives us plenty of suspects, turns and twists, and a final showdown.

Grafton weaves several threads including the blackmail, another murder, and a lot of secrets before the reader discovers the true story. In addition she has Ned from the previous book to contend with as he seeks revenge not only on Kinsey but his past wives Phyllis and Celeste. A third story involves Anna, Jonah and Cheney.

At the end of the story, Kinsey has a cat, dog, and numerous friends but she is cynical about the justice system. What she doesn’t have is a man in her life and fans have to wonder if in “Z” Grafton would have ended the series with Kinsey finding a third husband. We’ll never know.

Kinsey was based on Grafton and she had success and happiness in the end before cancer took her too soon.

 

“X” by Sue Grafton

“X” by Sue Grafton 2015

Grafton has several stories progressing along parallel paths and preparing to intersect in this book. The story begins with wealthy couple Ari and Teddy Xanakis. He cheated. She filed for divorce. Now they are fighting over the money and property, especially a IMG_0942 (2)valuable painting. Teddy tricks Kinsey into finding ex con Christian Satterfield who steals the painting. Kinsey gives Teddy and Ari marital advice (Kinsey?) and this seemed like a separate story. The main plot involves Pete from the previous story. Kinsey considered him a corrupt PI who bent the rules. But his widow Ruthie has such a different view, Kinsey begins to reevaluate her opinion of him, especially when she finds a coded message and list of six women in his belongings. Hoping to close loose ends in Pete’s life, she tracks down the women, who are tied to a sociopath, Ned Lowe, who adds Kinsey to his list of victims. I couldn’t understand why Pete kept the case a secret, and Ned gets away. It seemed sloppy. The other story concerns new elderly neighbors who take advantage of Henry. Kinsey shows the elderly as good and bad guys. Kinsey meets Cheney’s mother but her ex-boyfriend is absent until the end when Dietz talks to him about Ned. The story has several surprises and Pete is redeemed but it wasn’t a favorite.

“W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

“W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton 2013

Grafton uses one other POV in this story and since the guy is dead, the flashbacks of Pete Wolinsky, PI, show the reader what he was up to and how it intersects with Kinsey. Our IMG_0795 (2)orphan detective discovers she is the heir to  dead man, Terrence Dace, who turns out to be the nephew of her father. After spending time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, his children wrote him off with the help of their mother, and he is a homeless man looking for his uncle’s family (Kinsey). Grafton spends a lot of time on the homeless in this story as well as drug fraud. Pete hires Kinsey’s former boyfriend Dietz to spy on a woman in Reno at a convention with Dr. Reed. She’s met an old high school friend who is a journalist, and they are trying to prove Dr. Reed is changing numbers on a study on a drug for alcoholics. Dietz wasn’t paid and shows up for the money. Dace was part of the study and when he dies, boggarts or beggars rob him. His homeless friends Pearl and Felix with Kinsey’s help, steal back his belongings. Then Felix is beaten and dies from his injuries by the boggarts. One boggart witnessed Pete’s murder, and Kinsey tells Cheney, but Grafton doesn’t mention if anything happened to him. I hate loose ends. Kinsey gets to know her three worthless cousins who want part of the inheritance Dace left to Kinsey. Her mother’s family is looking GOOD by comparison. Kinsey says good-bye to Dietz who is spending time with his son Nick. Cheney asks if she’s dating anyone but he doesn’t ask her out on a date. What is wrong with the guy? A cat is introduced in the story, and Kinsey falls for him and risks life and limb to save him. Grafton reveals more about Kinsey’s personal life in this one and shows the complexity and motives of her detective. I admire Grafton for taking chances with different POV uses and for the detailed research she did about topics that are complicated. The story had a lot of options, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the one she chose.