Sue Grafton is one my favorite writers. I also like the occasional book about books, which led to Kinsey and Me. This is Sue Grafton’s discussion of her main character, Kinsey Milhone, combined with a bunch of short stories. Since I’m not a lover of the short story, the highlights of this book for me centered around Grafton talking about her relationship with her main character. Continue reading
Kinsey is the best. Any modern, tough, but caring female character stands on the shoulders of Kinsey Milhone. That’s my view, and I’m sticking by it. Luckily, you’ll probably never see her in film, so you won’t get a sexed up and more vulnerable Kinsey that Hollywood would surely desire. Grafton is not selling the rights to Kinsey to anyone. Continue reading
I’m all caught up with the alphabet series. I’m going to celebrate somehow. I think I’ll read one of the books that influenced Grafton the most, The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald. That should hold me over until the November release of V is for Vengeance. Smart, very smart.
I was initially skeptical about the subject of U. The mystery is a crime that happened 20 years earlier so Grafton leaves the first person for large chunks of the book, narrating a second story from multiple perspectives two decades previous. It also revisits the back story of her childhood and unearths a few secrets that Kinsey finds disturbing and hopeful.
It all works well and I was sucked in again. Here’s why: Grafton just says interesting and cool stuff. She uses the thoughtful musings of the deeply-etched main character Kinsey Millhone; just one of many reasons to read these books.
For example, this is Kinsey explaining her process of review and reflection on the case at hand:
I had a lot of ground to cover, consigning everything I’d learned to note cards, one item per card, which reduced the facts to their simplest form. It’s our nature to condense and collate, bundling related elements for ease of storage in the back of our brains. Since we lack the capacity to capture every detail, we cull what we can, blocking the bits we don’t like and admitting those that match our notions of what’s going on. While efficient, the practice leaves us vulnerable to blind spots. Under stress, memory becomes even less reliable. Over time we sort and discard what seems irrelevant to make room for additional incoming data. In the end, it’s a wonder we remember anything at all. What we manage to preserve is subject to misinterpretation. An event might appear to be generated by the one before it, when the order is actually coincidental. Two occurrences may be linked even when widely separated by time and place. My strategy of committing facts to cards allowed me to arrange and rearrange them, looking for the overall shape of a case. I was convinced a pattern would emerge, but I reminded myself that just because I wished a story were true didn’t mean that it was. (page 225)
That’s a beautiful insight into classic 3×5 note taking techniques for any purpose. Oh, and we have cool. Here is Kinsey’s recipe for helping a cancer survivor pack on some weight:
I’d introduced Stacey to junk food, which he’d never eaten in his life. Thereafter, I tagged along with him as he went from McDonald’s to Wendy’s to Arby’s to Jack in the Box. My crowning achievement was introducing him to the In-N-Out burger. His appetite increased, he regained some of the weight he’d lost during his cancer treatment, and his enthusiasm for life returned. Doctors were still scratching their heads. (page 264)
Her “crowning achievement.” That’s funny. Californians, they’re nutty. Sit tight and I’ll have my thoughts on the aforementioned book by Ross Macdonald shortly.
A little different style of book for Grafton this time around, but it was great. Her standard beginning is to introduce a specific mystery and rehash Kinsey’s life story for people reading things out of order. Not so this time. Grafton actually starts the book with some third person narrative about one of the antagonists and returns to it frequently. All this, while Kinsey is working a few non-mystery type of projects.
There are three distinct story lines, but one dominates. I don’t recall Grafton juggling that many big stories. The main story includes one of the most sinister villains that I recall from any of Grafton’s books and she ups the ante with a graphic action scene near the end. The villain is a thieving, malicious home care nurse who lands the job of taking care of Kinsey’s 90 year old neighbor Gus (not Henry, who lives on the other side of Kinsey’s place). No other villain has had quite that proximity to Kinsey and this one really hits close to home.
Listen to me, I’m on a first name basis with these characters and I’m talking about them like I know them. It feels kind of weird, but I’m really engrossed in this series. They just keep getting better.
** PLOT KILLERS FOLLOW **
I’m not sure I’m all that enamored with how Grafton ended this one. After a very exciting double climax, there were still a lot of loose ends. Oh, she cleaned them up, but she did it on more of a retrospective basis, which at times seem kind of hurried and contrived. It could have ended with some loose ends for all I care.
But listen to me, I couldn’t put it down. Once she got rolling late in the book I just blasted through it. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to wait to read “U.”
This is another edition of Grafton’s alphabet mystery series. I enjoy these books on so many different levels. First of all, each book stands alone as a solid mystery novel. Second, I like the main character a lot, mostly because she is so different from the characters in other stories I read. And finally, I really anticipate a fervor as we near the last few books.
I’m missing out on the Lost fervor (and any final episode fervor for that matter) because I don’t watch any “shows.” This series of books, for me at least, replaces that type of fun. Oh, it’s a little different I guess. I mean, the last episode in the life of Kinsey Millhone is still probably 5 years away. A year between episodes would probably blunt a lot of the fervor for most people. Which is probably why I don’t have anybody to discuss this with.
What do you do? I sort through it internally, better know as entertaining myself. But this anticipation stuff is only one aspect of the fun. Besides that, the mysteries are great. For this one, I’m making notes at the 60% point so I can document that I figured it out.
** PLOT KILLERS FOLLOW **
I’m writing this just past half-way through the book. Here’s my prediction: I think the murder was a plot, amongst no less than four characters, to rid the world of the victim because she had dirt on everybody. I make this prediction because of the retrospective scene in the bar where at least two of them sparred with the soon-to-be victim and others involved were watching.
So there you have it. That ends the real-time aspect of this post.
But alas, I was wrong! However, my prediction added another dimension to the fun of this mystery and it really had me jamming through it this weekend.
Part of me wants to go out right now and buy “T” and “U” and blast through them. But what’s the rush? I’m betting that “V” won’t come out until end of year or early next so that’s the bottleneck. Hmmm…if I did press on right now, it would allow me to read the Amazon reviews and discussions in real time, which would be cool.
I’m not sure what my plan is. I’m not caught up in any of my series so maybe I need to get there with one of them at least. It’s quite a quandary, but I got bigger fish to fry right now. Plus, I have some good biographies and business books that I’m looking forward to cracking through. Maybe a break from fiction will do me good.
Grafton has made her main character so rich and enthralling that it’s like having an imaginary friend. Strange you say? Yeah, I can’t argue with you, I may very well have some issues. I read through Kinsey’s bio on Wikipedia like it’s for real. I think it’s a testament to just how crafty Grafton is. The woman can write some fun stuff.
In this iteration of the adventures of private detective Kinsey Millhone, Grafton throws in a few new things and a fresher take on one of her favorite topics.
For the first time that I can recall she bases the mystery on a real-life case. She talks about it in an extended author’s notes section (I don’t recall her doing that before either). She gives the reader insights into her methods and goes into some detail on the journal she keeps during the writing of each book. Do you ever think that the next generation will study these journals posthumously like we study Van Gogh’s sketches? Hey, pop culture often ends up being termed classic after a period of time. Don’t rule it out.
Additionally, she really pushes the envelope on Kinsey’s fast food fetish. The reader gets a detailed description of a McDonald’s meal no less than three times. Kinsey even gets a colleague addicted to fast food. At one point, Kinsey heads out to grab some McDonald’s shortly after her colleague had just finished dining at Burger King. Her colleague says:
Oh, I’ll be eating again. The Whopper was good, but it didn’t fill me up. I’ve been thinking we should do a study – purely scientific – a side-by-side tasting, a Whopper and a Big Mac, to see which we prefer. Or go vertical – McDonald’s hamburger, cheeseburger, a QP with cheese, and a Big Mac. What do you think?
That vertical tasting idea is pretty funny. Grafton, I think, is rebelling against the healthful, agricultural, Santa Barbara lifestyle. Kinsey runs and lifts weights, but loves fast food. So she’s healthy, but unapologetically cheats a lot. I’m guessing that she’s flaunting this in the face of the granola eaters in California.
I may just blast through R, S, T, and U this year so I can catch up.