Of the #1 New York Times best-selling Kinsey Millhone series, NPR said, "Makes me wish there were more than 26 letters."
Two dead bodies changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I'd never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.
The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. He'd been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. It looked like a robbery gone bad. The other was on the beach six weeks later. He'd been sleeping rough. Probably homeless. No identification. A slip of paper with Millhone's name and number was in his pants pocket. The coroner asked her to come to the morgue to see if she could ID him.
Two seemingly unrelated deaths, one a murder, the other apparently of natural causes.
But as Kinsey digs deeper into the mystery of the John Doe, some very strange linkages begin to emerge. And before long at least one aspect is solved as Kinsey literally finds the key to his identity. "And just like that," she says, "the lid to Pandora's box flew open. It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself."
In this multilayered tale, the surfaces seem clear, but the underpinnings are full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and outright murderous fraud. And Kinsey, through no fault of her own, is thoroughly compromised.
W is for…wanderer…worthless…wronged….
W is for wasted.
©2013 Sue Grafton (P)2013 Random House Audio
No need for a plot summary here -- those of us who love Kinsey really don't care about the specifics of what she's gotten herself mixed up in this time. We'll go along for the ride, whatever it is. Suffice it to say that in this 23rd installment, Sue Grafton found yet another unique story line, plowed untilled storylines once again, and turned out a ridiculously good book.
I just finished listening, still wiping away tears from one of the finest eulogies I've ever heard, this one honoring a man of courage and intelligence, but one who also happened to be homeless, one of those rascally urban dwellers must of us would prefer not to see at all. Many of the main characters in this book were homeless -- some of them obnoxious, some physically or mentally ill, others just down on their luck. What made Grafton's tale unique is the respect she showed them all -- not pious or groveling, not pity, not laden with "it wasn't their fault" excuses, but rather with the simple acknowledgement that they exist, they live among us, that they are, in many ways, no different from the rest of us, and are therefore deserving of respect.
I greatly appreciated that straightforward treatment. A lesser writer would have turned this plot into a screed against these undesirables for weakness in succumbing to their various addictions, or alternatively into a diatribe against "the rich" who allegedly bear responsibility for the situation. Grafton did neither. She just told a story, without having Kinsey render up any judgments at all, let alone claiming to understand any of their personal situations, and certainly not offering any solution to the whole issue of the "homeless", whatever it might be. In fact, when one character launches into a divisive rant, Kinsey stops him immediately. "Please, keep politics out of this." Very smart -- it kept the book fresh and interesting.
All that said, "W" is not a heavy book -- in fact, it's a delight to see Kinsey doing something few of us ever thought she'd ever do. Kinsey -- not a warm and cuddly person, by any standard -- falls in love with a cat. And not just Kinsey, either, but Henry also cozies up to the formerly-homeless feline. Fun to see character growth like that -- Kinsey, ready to put her life on the line for an animal? Amazing.
Another fun thing was that a goodly part of the book takes place in Bakersfield, CA, and of course since the entire series is set in the mid to late 1980's, we get to experience the Bakersfield of that time. I remember Bakersfield in 1986, and obviously so does Sue Grafton. She even remembered to include the Basque restaurants and the country music pubs. Fun to read those parts -- and even more fun to see Grafton capturing the unique Bakersfield population just as I remember it, too. Although they're just three hours apart, Bakersfield is about as different from "Santa Theresa" -- Santa Barbara -- as any two cities can be, but it's obvious both Grafton and Kinsey are at home in either one.
I'll listen to this book again and again, as I do all of Grafton's 'alphabet' books -- the biggest problem of which is that there are now only three left. The good news is, all of them are now available on Audible, some read by Judy Kaye, some by Mary Peiffer. Both narrators are excellent and make all the books worthy of many listens.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
It is surprising that Sue Grafton keeps up the quality in the Kinsey Millhone series.
This story has more personal information about Kinsey as she goes to Bakersfield to hunt down some of her father's side of the family. A call from the coroner's office finds Kinsey with a newly discovered dead cousin and also discovers she is the executor of his will and the beneficiary of the will for about 1/2 million dollars. In her attempts to locate his children she also discovers he was part of a clinical trial and thought the drug was making him sick. This all makes for some suspense, action and humor. Only 3 more books to go I wonder how Grafton plans on to close this series? If you are a fan of this series you will enjoy it. Judy Kaye does and excellent job narration this audiobook.
Let me say first that I have always loved Sue Grafton's books and can even name all the "alphabet" titles from memory. That being said, I feel this one was WAAAY to long and filled with narrative that was uninteresting and tedious. This book could have been at least 5 hours less (maybe more) and have been more palatable. I had to go to other books after every couple of hours just to take a break from the boredom and finally get it finished.
The painful fact that in this book Kinsey is reduced to a mere shadow of herself. She is whiney and spineless, unlike the sassy "in your face" detective we have seen in the past.
Judy always does a great job. She IS Kinsey.
It was interesting to have the "old" boyfriends all in the picture again.
Maybe 2 years is a little long for Sue to take to write these novels. She appears to be overthinking.
A good story
an easy listen, liked the flow
When Kinsey talked about Ed the cat sleeping on the pillow
A light, fun book. Give it a try.
Best of Series
When explanation of homelessness is given such humanity
This is Grafton's best work. The other books in this series were easily read in one night, but not W. So much more depth to the characters, and much more introspection for Kinsey.
I probably wouldn't keep reading these books but for the fact I've been reading them for decades. And, I'm curious how the series will end. In W is for Wasted, Kinsey is much more emotional than in Grafton's other novels. Her relationship phobias are a bit more pronounced and you get the sense that she is becoming more lonely. The mystery part of the story was Ok, maybe a little predictable, but always entertaining. And, Judy Kaye's narration as always, was stellar. I would have given it a 3.5 if I could.
Kinsey Milhone always
This book takes a long time to catch your interest in the story and once it does I'm not sure that the story comes to an unexpected ending. It was boring.
Avid general reader with a fondness for British and Irish Writers and world history.
Circuitous plot with interesting characters - some well developed, others not so much. Homelessness is a difficult and complex topic and Grafton has chosen representative characters, except for the severely mentally ill who comprise a major percentage. This certainly could have been two books - a good listen.
After being a little disappointed after the last two books in the series, In was very pleasantly surprised with "W is for Wasted".
It is full of the mystery and humorous bits that make all of the alphabet books so entertaining, but this one is also full of heart and touches on some of the major problems facing too many people these days. This is a can't miss book - I'm just sad that we only have three more in the series.
Definitely read them in order, of course!
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
For a couple of years, I was assigned to litigate cases in Santa Barbara. It's a deceptively large city (90,412 in 2013) masquerading as a town small enough to walk everywhere. The Spanish Colonial Revival Courthouse is beautiful and lovingly maintained even as the latest technology is incorporated into the courtrooms. Each time I made an appearance, I took a few minutes to spot places Sue Grafton must have used to create Kinsey Millhone's world. Santa Barbara historically maintains so many places, it's not hard even though the series is set a quarter of a century ago.
"W is for Wasted" (2013) is set in 1989, before cell phones and when the few people who knew what the Internet was were dialing in on 300 baud modems. Santa Barbara, then and now, has a persistent homeless population. When Kinsey's name and phone number are found in the pocket of a dead man who's part of the homeless community, she's drawn into an investigation that leads her to her own family in Bakersfield. It's a branch so distant it's almost a twig.
Grafton's plots have become much more intricate since "A is for Alibi" (1982), but the resolution to the mysteries Kinsey solves end up telegraphed pretty well in advance. What I like about Grafton's books is that she intertwines two or more seemingly unrelated stories that tie together in the end. Trying to figure out how the stories merge is a kick. Grafton's cast of supporting characters is fun. Kinsey's landlord, Henry and his brother William have supporting roles in this book. They are, as always, amusing foils for each other and Kinsey. One of my favorite characters makes an appearance mid-book, and I didn't see that coming.
However, I was disappointed in how Grafton handled Bakersfield and Kern County. Grafton got the geography right, and the mutability of the community and its tendency to tear down homes, and rebuild. It's roots are in the oil fields that dot the horizon, and many people there are descendants of "Okies" who migrated during the Dust Bowl of the depression. It can be a roustabout tough place. Where Grafton missed is the music. Bakersfield natives are proud of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Merle Haggard, and the other musicians that created the "Bakersfield Sound" of the 1950s. There's still a tremendous amount of support for local musicians so it wouldn't be surprising to find other talented local musicians playing in bars.
As to the Audible - well, the voice actor's tone and pronunciation were fine, but the production quality was really off. I ended up listening to almost the entire book at 1.25 times speed. That's a first for me in over 200 Audible titles I've listened to.
The title of the review is from the last line of every Millhone book.
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