Who'd a thunk it? 21 installments into a series and, far from being a return to a comfort zone, Sue Grafton's latest effort is something of a departur..Show More »e from the routine. As the book opens private investigator Kinsey Millhone is asked to do a day's work by a young man, Michael Sutton. When he was six years old he saw two men burying something in the woods and he now believes they may have been burying the body of Mary Claire Fitzhugh, a four-year-old child who was kidnapped in 1967 and has never been seen since. Kinsey soon learns that it's not as clear-cut as Michael thought but, as always, she doggedly nuts out all the facts and builds her case.
With respect to the doggedness of Kinsey the book is as familiar as an old cardigan but the surprising element was that Kinsey's is only one of several stories that unfold. In addition there's a thread in the 1960's featuring a woman called Deborah Unrah whose grown son returns home greatly changed by the flower power movement and drug culture of the time and another 1988 thread featuring a middle-aged Walker McNally who is a repugnant alcoholic. These two characters, and several others who orbit around them, are deeply and perceptively depicted as their colliding stories are told.
In some ways the ending of the book is fairly predictable but this book isn't the same kind of procedural as its predecessors and relies less on that kind of suspense for its drama and conflict. This book is really about why things happen rather than what happened and it's this that is something of a departure for this series.
I would highly recommend the book to both Grafton's fans, who will have just enough of the familiar to satiate their needs, and those who have never read Grafton before because this, more than most of her other alphabet tales, is a standalone book of the highest quality. I can also recommend to audio book fans the added treat of listening to Judy Kaye's excellent narrataion which really did make the book fly by.
I believe Sue Grafton just gets better with time. Kinsey Millhone is an interesting character that never fails to hold my attention. A well conceived..Show More » protagonist can feel like a long time friend and that's what Kinsey is to me. Judy Kaye also does a great job presenting the story. A very enjoyable and interest-holding read!
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 ti..Show More »me. 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.