X – Sue Grafton
PUBLISHER: G.P. Putman’s Sons
COPYRIGHT & YEAR: Sue Grafton,2015
REVIEWER: Suzanne Bozorth-Baines
Sue Grafton has been writing the Kinsey Millhone mystery series, also termed ‘the alphabet series’, since 1982, producing about a novel per year. All previous books in the alphabetically inspired titles have included a crime related word—‘A Is for Alibi’, ‘B is for Burglar’, ‘C Is for Corpse’, etc. But it seems that Grafton had a hard time coming up with a crime related word that had an ‘x’ at the beginning, so one of the main characters with the surname ‘Xanakis’ appears right on the first page, just so the reader gets the connection. And this Xanakis is connected to a crime.
PI Kinsey Millhone has a sizeable private fortune, which she spends judiciously, and a philosophy that ’the righteous are struck down while the sticky-fingered escape.’ These facts you also learn in the first few pages, along with her vow ‘to see that justice plays out the other way around’. Throughout the book you are lead, in minute detail, through a day in the life of a PI, which doesn’t seem all that interesting after all. So maybe you don’t really want to be a PI? Perhaps the mundane makes for a more realistic character. Who’d ever thought you’d need a toilet when you’re on a stakeout? Millhone also has an interesting relationship with her aging next door neighbour/landlord/friend, Henry. And it’s this interaction that leads to some subplot developments which help move the book along. Grafton has a good eye for the technology, i.e. computers, phones, fitting into the book’s late 1980’s setting. She also uses a device of allowing the reader to observe obvious connections in the crime which the characters don’t immediately see. (Hey, what about that answering machine, Kinsey?) There is a humorous bent to the book that is peppered throughout its entirety. And there’s one little ‘ah ha’ moment when one of Grafton’s characters say something about the physical newsprint of newspapers not being needed in the future (which is the now.)
With the publication of ‘X’ in 2015, Grafton is fast coming to the end of the alphabet. It’ll be interesting to see what words Grafton finds for her titles of ‘y’ and ‘z’ and what fate awaits PI Kinsey Millhone in those forthcoming books.