• U Is for Undertow

  • A Kinsey Millhone Novel
  • By: Sue Grafton
  • Narrated by: Judy Kaye
  • Length: 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (2,379 ratings)

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U Is for Undertow  By  cover art

U Is for Undertow

By: Sue Grafton
Narrated by: Judy Kaye
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Publisher's summary

Calling T is for Trespass "taut, terrifying, transfixing and terrific", USA Today went on to ask, "What does it take to write 20 novels about the same character and manage to create a fresh, genre-bending novel every time?"

It's a question worth pondering. Through 20 excursions into the dark side of the human soul, Sue Grafton has never written the same book twice. And so it is with this, her 21st. Once again, she breaks genre formulas, giving us a twisting, complex, surprise-filled, and totally satisfying thriller.

It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's 38th birthday, and she's alone in her office doing paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy booze, but Michael Sutton is 27, an unemployed college dropout. Twenty-one years earlier, a four-year-old girl disappeared. A recent reference to her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial when he was six years old. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the child's remains and finding the men who killed her. It's a long shot, but he's willing to pay cash up front, and Kinsey agrees to give him one day.

As her investigation unfolds, she discovers Michael Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his current story true, or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?

Grafton moves the narrative between the 80s and the 60s, changing points of view, building multiple subplots, and creating memorable characters. Gradually, we see how they all connect. But at the beating center of the novel is Kinsey Millhone, sharp-tongued, observant, a loner - "a heroine", said The New York Times Book Review, "with foibles you can laugh at and faults you can forgive."

Don't miss the other titles in the Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mystery Series.
©2009 Sue Grafton (P)2009 Random House

Critic reviews

"As this master of suspense continues to demonstrate in superb mystery after mystery, there are more ugly twists in the human heart than there are letters in the alphabet." ( Entertainment Weekly)
"It's as if Grafton purposely begins with a standard situation-and then gleefully sets about breaking every cardinal rule of the mystery novel." ( Los Angeles Times Book Review)

Featured Article: Best Mystery Series—Listens That'll Take You Right to the Crime Scene


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What listeners say about U Is for Undertow

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A brilliant departure from the familiar

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 departure 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.

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17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good but different

I liked the book but it feels like Ms Grafton is working on life after the "alphabet" books. Kinsey has a relatively minor part in this book. There is great character development but I missed Kinsey's involvement.

Still it was a good read.

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17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

U is for Underwhelmed

I was looking forward to this book, but the wham-bam no thank you ma'am barrage of characters and their stories, and Grafton's usual holes in the narrative left me breathless. If my attention waned for even a minute, Grafton changed characters and traded flashbacks.

I am surprised that she is a student of serious literature because none of it seems to have rubbed off. The characters are ill-defined and there are just too many. Grafton needs to learn that less is more, and to concentrate on the only really interesting people in her books - Kinsey Milhone and Henry, her landlord. Oh, there is also the city of Santa Theresa, which is really Santa Barbara, and the city, too, could have used some development and atmosphere - I used to live there, so I got a laugh out of Anacapa Street becoming "Anaconda" street.

On the whole I thought the huge assemblage of personalities and their histories really prevented any studies into depth of character, and the result was quite shallow. I know Sue Grafton can do better. I'd like to see her try something on the order of P.D. James, John Grisham or Ruth Rendell, or at least attempt some introspection and aim for quality rather than quantity.

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13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of her best yet

"U" starts with an interesting premise...Michael Sutton remembers something from his childhood and sends Kinsey on one of her favorite type missions...digging for clues. I also enjoyed this book because Kinsey learns more about her long unknown family, especially her grandmother and aunts. Must be because the alphabet is coming to a close--within five more volumes Grafton's fans will want to know that Kinsey's life has been wrapped up neatly. This is one I'll listen to again in a few months.

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8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

LOVED IT!

I agree with another reviewer that stated this was the best in this series. Thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed when it was over. Highly recommend to all.

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8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Another Disappointment

Grafton's alphabet mystery series has been in decline since P is for Peril, but this latest is even worse than T is for Trespass. The story is unfocused, overlong, and not at all well plotted. My advice regarding Grafton's books is to start with A and continue through N, then stop. It's been downhill from there, with the exception of S is for Silence. Unfortunately, the earlier mysteries are not available at Audible.

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Judy Kaye is Great

I've been a Grafton fan for years and was reticent to get the latest installment in audio version. Since much of Grafton's books are written in Kinsey's first person, I wasn't sure I would be happy with anyone portraying her. Judy Kaye has just enough gravel in her voice to sound exactly like I imagined Kinsey to sound! She also does a great job with portraying the other characters. If you are a Kinsey Milhone fan, do not hesitate to get this audio book!

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Best Narration

The book was very good and kept my interest but the very best is the narration. The narrator didn't try to do a different voice for each character which can sometimes be very annoying. I would definitely like to listen to books read by Judy Kaye.

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5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

One of the better ones

The plots have gotten more complex - I really enjoyed this book.

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4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

somewhat difficult to follow

Would you listen to U Is for Undertow again? Why?

Might be easier to follow if read...lots of characters and changes in time over twenty years.

What did you like best about this story?

Kinsey's background is illuminated.

What does Judy Kaye bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Judy Kaye,as always,brings the characters to life.

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3 people found this helpful