Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

X by Sue Grafton

Marion Wood Books, 416 pages, $28.95 (release date - 8/25/15)

With the farewells this year of comedians whom I enjoyed watching (Dave Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart — even though, technically, Colbert’s departure was to another show), I am feeling sentimental about the — guesswork here — upcoming end of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series with “Z” She is up to “X,” and there isn’t too much left of the alphabet, if memory serves me right. Therefore, I’m announcing straight off, every single one of the remaining books will get an MBTB star.

“X” is not for anything this time around, yet it signifies a lot. There are “x”s written into characters, settings, and situations. And let us not forget, in scientific notation, “x” is the unknown quantity.

There are three unknown quantities to be solved by Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s redoubtable private investigator in Santa Teresa, California, forever trapped like a fly in amber in the 1980s. 1) Kinsey is hired by Hallie Bettancourt to find the son she put up for adoption at birth. 2) Kinsey suspects new neighbors Edna and Joseph Shallenbarger are up to no good. 3) Private investigator Pete Wolinsky died in “W Is for Wasted,”  and his widow now is asking for Kinsey’s help in finding some financial papers.

Nothing is ever simple, thank goodness, for Kinsey. 1) Hallie Bettancourt doesn’t exist. 2) It isn’t simply a case of not liking the sly, sneaky looks of Edna Shallenbarger, it’s a case of how does Kinsey protect her dear friend and landlord, Henry Pitts, from being used. 3) When Kinsey discovers that Pete hid a packet of objects that should have been delivered to a young girl about twenty years earlier, it leads her on a major journey to discover why Pete also left a coded list of women’s names.

I love Kinsey’s tidiness and meticulous note keeping. I love that there have been thirty-some-odd-years of watching Kinsey eat either a cholesterol-laden, all-American diet or some strange Hungarian concoction at Rosie’s restaurant. I will miss passages like this:

“…I had time for a bite to eat, supping on milk of tomato soup and a gooey grilled cheese sandwich, which I held in a fold of paper towel that neatly soaked up the excess butter. While I ate, I read a couple of chapters of a Donald Westlake paperback.”

Sue Grafton has created a major female character who relies on her brain cells rather than her brawn. Yes, Kinsey can shoot a gun. Yes, she knows karate. But her strengths are always her deductive and intuitive skills. And Grafton’s sense of humor.

There’s more to the story that “X” begins. Will it take us all the way through to “Z”? 

MBTB star!

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