“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.
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 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 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 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 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.
“V” is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton 2011
Grafton has perfected the different POVs and tying them all together for a story that leaves no guessing. The story begins with a 23-year-old Princeton graduate Phillip Lanahall who has a gambling problem in 1986. Mobster Dante loans him money which he promises to payback with 25% interest, but Dante sets him up at the gambling tables with a woman who forces him to lose. He offers his new car, and Dante tells his vicious brother Cappi to “take care of it” and check out the car. Instead he tosses the boy off the parking deck. Forward to the present where Kinsey witnesses two women shoplifting and reports it. Audrey is arrested and commits suicide. Her fiancé Marvin hires her to find out the truth. Reporter Diana Alvarez makes an annoying appearance, but Kinsey warms up to her by the end of the story. We meet Pinky who gave Kinsey her first break-in tools, and he needs money. She helps him get a ring which leads to a lot of trouble with the mob. Det. Len Priddy who was a friend of Kinsey’s first husband Mickey shows up and dislikes her now as much as in the past. Kinsey finds herself in the middle of a theft ring, and former boyfriend Cheney warns her to stay out of it. I won’t say anything about Nora, but she has her own POV so she’s important. This story has Kinsey playing detective wholeheartedly and making lots of new friends or tying up loose ends with old acquaintances. Grafton was upping her game as she came to the end of the alphabet. Her sarcasm is subtle but strong. You won’t want to miss reading this one.
“U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton 2009
Michael Sutton comes to Kinsey with a memory of seeing a body buried when he was six years old. He thinks it was 4-year-old Mary Claire Fizhugh, who was kidnapped July 19, 1967, but never returned. Grafton shifts between the 1960s and 1980s changing point of views and giving us background into the different characters that impact the plot. Patrick and Deborah Unruh have to deal with son Greg turned hippie, his pregnant girlfriend Shelly and her son Shawn who live in a bus. They leave behind their newborn daughter, Rain, who is kidnapped 10 days before Mary Claire but returned after Patrick pays the ransom with marked bills. Michael has a history of falsely accusing people of sex abuse and when the body turns out to be a wolf-dog, they dismiss his story. Clever reference to the boy who cried wolf.
Kinsey has to deal with a family reunion, letters sent to her as a child and her Aunt Gin from Grand, and her obsession for making sense of what happened to Mary Claire. She has to deal with ex-cop Dolan, who was on the original case and Detective Cheney, who helps her with the current dig. The characters are well-drawn with the insights into their past and the reader understands their motives for committing the crimes. It’s a popular technique in today’s writing, especially romance to have both the hero and heroine POV and in mystery to have the killer and detectives POV for a more balanced story. For anyone needing a lesson on how to pull multi-POVs off, read this book. Even though the plot is complicated, it falls into place and is easy to follow. Grafton throws in a date discrepancy but then doesn’t explain when Michael saw the kidnappers digging the grave.
This is also a good book for those new to Grafton because she summarizes everything in Kinsey’s past so you can catch up in her life or read the previous A through T books.
“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton 2007
The plot was simple with a woman stealing the identity of nurse Solana Rojas and taking over the life and wealth of Henry and Kinsey’s elderly neighbor, Gus. Grafton used Solana’s POV in this story and we see her cold-blooded motivation, which made her more terrifying. Kinsey and the others in the story don’t see Solana as a threat until it’s almost too late. Kinsey has broken up with Cheney although she has a short moment of regret when she sees him. Kinsey is driving a 1970 Mustang instead of her old VW, which was buried in the previous story. Kinsey is working on other cases and takes her time looking into Solana’s background a second time (the first didn’t show anything wrong) as her suspicions rise. By that time Solana has sold Gus’s antique furniture, emptied his bank account and is trying to sell his artwork and get a loan on his property. The story has a few shockers, violent confrontations, and a nail-biting ending.
This story hit home because a “friendly” couple helped my great aunt. In reality he was on disability, which he emphasized and they took over her finances claiming to be “helpful.” It was at a time when swindling the elderly was none of anyone’s business, especially when the elderly person praised all the “wonderful” things their helpers did for them. I was in my teens and smelled a rat, but she died before anyone thought to question their care or the fact they had positioned themselves to have access to everything before the estate was settled.
“S” is for Silence by Sue Grafton 2005
“S” should have been for sex. Grafton has several sex scenes that are tastefully done but not common in a mystery genre. She also writes several chapters back in 1953, the time of the disappearance of Violet, from the point of view of many of the suspects. In 1953 it appeared as if everyone had a motive and opportunity to kill Violet if she was murdered. Her daughter Daisy wants closure. She needs to know her mother didn’t abandon her or why she did leave without taking her.
We see Violet through many eyes including Daisy, Liza, her babysitter, Liza’s friend Kathy, and the men in town. Although her abusive husband is the prime suspect, Kinsey doesn’t leave anyone out of the investigation. The tires on her VW are slashed as a warning, but Kinsey brings her gun along on this trip.
I took notes to try to keep the characters clear but when the ending was revealed, I had to look back and figure out what was his motive. This novel was 374 pages, and I thought there were some loose ends. The pink notebook paper bothered me because it belonged to Kathy but implicated Tannie’s father. The scheme seemed complicated once the effort and timing needed to fulfill it was spelled out.
I also thought the motive was weak because the suspect had other, much easier, ways to obtain the money he needed. Kinsey also downplays a statutory rape incident and has a happy reunion of the two. This read like Peyton Place with all the affairs, illegitimate children, and interference by friends and relatives. But Grafton wasn’t afraid to try new things and many authors use multiple POVs in their novels today. Going back in time and seeing the people act out the events of 1953 and compare them to the lies they tell Kinsey in the present puts the reader into the story more. It also develops the characters and reveals more about them that can’t be seen from the private investigator’s POV alone.
“R” is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton 2004
Kinsey babysits Reba Lafferty after serving a sentence for embezzling $350,000 from her boss Alan Beckwith. She was having an affair with him and took the fall for him, thinking he was going to leave his wife, Tracy. Reba bet the money away because she’s a gambling addict. Grafton has two side stories running in this book with Henry maybe having a girlfriend, Mattie, but his brothers appear to be hindering it. Also Kinsey sees Cheney Phillips at her friend Dana’s place, but she thinks he’s married. Cheney makes contact with Kinsey because the FBI is interested in Reba. Beckwith is into money laundering and they want to use Reba to incriminate him. After seeing pictures of Beckwith with his new girlfriend Onni, Reba’s best friend, she takes revenge herself, and Kinsey is busy doing damage control as Reba confronts Onni and Beckwith. They meet Marty, the accountant for Beckwith and end up surveying Beckwith’s new business building and discover his cash counting room. Reba is likeable but a ticking time bomb. Reba is one step ahead of Kinsey as she lifts $25,000 from the money room and heads for Vegas to gamble. Reba tries to help Marty, who is hauled off by Beckwith’s thugs and dies in the money room. Kinsey is kidnapped by Beckwith to lure Reba to the building. Kinsey comes off as a sidekick to Reba in this story. She also takes a beating because help is always too long in coming. Cheney seems to be too busy to realize he’s put Kinsey and Reba in danger, and the FBI aren’t concerned about their safety either which keeps the reader on edge about their fates.
Grafton wasn’t afraid to try new things and having Kinsey one step behind Reba guarantees she’ll get deep into trouble.
“Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton 2002
Kinsey helps Lt. Dolan and retired cop Stacey Oliphant work on a cold case of a Jane Doe. They think Frankie Miracle did it because he had just killed his girlfriend. The quarry is located on LeGrand property of 2300 acres belonging to Kinsey’s grandmother. It forces her to meet more of her relatives including Aunt Susanna, who gives her a photo album that ends with her parents’ elopement. She visits Miracle’s old jail cellmate Pudge in jail right before he is let go. He tries to implicate Miracle. A witness saw a 1966 Mustang not Chevy that Miracle had stolen from his dead girlfriend. Iona is Miracle’s new girlfriend (they love bad guys) and defends him. Pudge dated Iona so they all know each other. The Mustang was stolen from the McPhee family home where Ruel, Edna and son Cornell and daughter Adrianne live. Cornell is married to Justine and has three kids. Justine is the daughter of the town drunk, Medora, who took in foster kid Charisse who was a lot of trouble. Dental records prove Charisse is the dead Jane Doe and things heat up as Kinsey closes in on who killed her.
There are several red herrings in this story but enough foreshadowing to guess the motive of the killing.
The story deals a lot with the friendship of Kinsey, Dolan and Stacey, especially when Dolan has a heart attack. Kinsey uses her charm to make friends with her suspects but it takes a long time for the tension and action to heat up.
The story was easy to follow and the tie to Kinsey’s family made it more interesting. Grafton spends a lot of time on description, her forte, but it makes the book appear padded since it runs 380 pages. Grafton shares how she was given the idea of a Jane Doe case and the fact she keeps a journal during the writing of her books, beginning with a workable story line.
“P” Is For Peril by Sue Grafton published 2001
This story had enough plots for three stories and drizzled out at the end as all the loose ends were tied up.
Kinsey is hired by Fiona Purcell to find her ex-husband Dr. Dowen Purcell who has been missing for nine weeks after leaving work. A past client from a previous book, Dana, is married to one of his two partners who are building retirement homes. Purcell was in charge of Pleasant Meadows, as assisted living facility, where we learn about Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and Purcell is the fall guy. Medical people shouldn’t try to be business people. That’s plot 1. Plot 2 involves Kinsey finding new office space and she signs a long-term lease with Richard and Tommy. Unfortunately an insurance investigators says the two brothers hired a man to murder their parents, rob the family jewels, and then turns up missing, presumed dead. The two brothers have gone through the money and the investigator wants to set them up with a fence to recover the jewels and arrest the boys for the murders they got away with. This news turns a budding romance for Kinsey with Tommy into dread and evasion. She finds her gun and puts it in her purse but they take it away after overpowering her. This is a lesson in which guns give you a false sense of security because unless you have the gun in your hand and aimed at the bad guy, you’re out of luck. This plot does has a rookie mistake that Kinsey should have checked into earlier. Plot 3 concerns Purcell’s second wife, Crystal and her daughter Leila, who at 14, is outmaneuvering the adults around her. Crystal’s affair with Clint is uncovered at the end with a big surprise and, of course, there was a pre-nuptial so no divorce without losing everything.
This story read like a soap opera with all the family problems aired in the pages. Kinsey does her research and those who want to learn about Medicare and Medicaid will find the pages informative. Others will skip over them.