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Thursday, October 30, 2008


My uncle Jesse gave me two Sue Grafton novels, telling me that she put together an intriguing and interesting story. Right he was, and though Rob and I listened to S is for Silence as a perfectly performed audio book, I think I am going to go back and pick up the other letters of the Grafton alphabet—beginning with A is for Alibi.

The characters who people this 19th novel in the Kinsey Millhone series are not particularly admirable, not even Grafton's private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. She's hard-boiled enough that late in the book she apologizes to a woman for being relentlessly cold and unfeeling for the pain others might feel in the solution of this decades' old disappearance. But even her regret is fleeting. The suspects themselves are unattractive in their attitudes and actions, and each one has a grudge against the missing woman that makes her disappearance no surprise. Still, their baseness might be what makes them interesting, and Rob and I had plenty to talk about as we each tried to guess the ending of the story. It might be that Kinsey’s less than perfect character makes her more interesting, if less brilliant, than a Sherlock Holmes, although he could be pretty awful too.

The premise of the plot is interesting. The book is set in 1987, but the mystery really begins in 1953—on the 4th of July. A young woman out to see the annual fireworks display vanishes leaving her young and adoring seven year old daughter with a father the child knew more as her mother's sparring partner than as a loving dad. Violet’s disappearance is of local interest for a while primarily because she is the town’s femme fatale—very 1950s--and all sorts of rumors are attached to her name. But interest fades into local folklore, as such stories might, once the novelty wears thin. She was neither liked nor missed. She had a bad reputation, fought publicly with her husband, and was respected by few. Where she fled, with whom, and how she was able to leave remains an unsolved mystery, and it is not until many years later that her now-middle-aged daughter whose life and self-esteem were destroyed by the abandonment seeks to answer those questions as a way to pull her own life back together. Enter California private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Digging into people's pasts can be very unpleasant, and in some cases, dangerous, but that is exactly what Kinsey Millhone is hired to do. She goes about her job with a vengeance!

If you like audio books, this is a good one. Judy Kaye did a splendid reading. If you like detective mysteries, this is a good travel mystery--a perfect vacation book. It will have you guessing just as it had us.

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