Tag Archives: Sue Grafton

10: V is for Vengeance

V is for VengeanceV is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the Fall 2013 VPL Book Sale.

Read in June 2014.

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So like all the notes I jotted down while reading V is for Vengeance were names of characters and their relationships to other characters. I don’t know. I guess I was having trouble keeping track.

Anyway, I guess the mc who is not Kinsey is Nora. In the prologue (1986, because aykb, Kinsey is stuck in the ’80s), Nora’s son is murdered because gambling debts. In the present, which is 1988, hVPL Fall Book Saleer husband is having an affair with his secretary, and Nora starts up an affair with the crime boss (Dante) whose minions killed her son. Awkward.

Dante runs a shoplifting ring. Kinsey is buying underwear when she witnesses one of his minions shoplifting, and then is almost run over by another minion (there are a lot of minions). Then one of the minions turns up dead. Meanwhile… Kinsey’s landlord Henry has to go to Detroit because his 99yo sister broke her leg tripping over a cat, and his brother William convinces Kinsey to attend the “visitation” for the dead minion. Not that he knows the minion, he’s just obsessed with death or something.

Ok, I’m loling at this description, I mean, it’s all kind of ridiculous, but it was an entertaining kind of ridiculous.

13: N is for Noose

N is for Noose (Kinsey Millhone, #14)N is for Noose by Sue Grafton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Purchased at Beacon Books in Sidney on my way to the ferry.The kind of place you could get lost in for hours! And yes, there was a cat 🙂

Previously on The Remainder Table, I wrote about S is for Silence and T is for Trespass. So with N is for Noose (1998), we’re taking a few steps back. Though in Kinsey’s timeline, this means months, not years.

In my T is for Trespass post, I wrote:

Here’s the thing. I know Kinsey Millhone isn’t great literature, but also know if I come across another in the series, I will probably read it. It’s reading junk food! nomnomnom It’s not even so much about the series itself, but about the fact that reading it also reminds me of reading the first books in the series, back when my favorite TV show was Remington Steele and my career aspiration was to be either a police detective, a private investigator, or a cat burglar.

Haha, yes. I loves me some reading junk food.  I’ll keep reading these even though they’re flawed. There are different kinds of good.

Anyway, N is for Noose got off to a good start. For most of the book, I thought this would be the Kinsey book I’d give three stars. And then I got to the ending. Augh. Not the only time this happened this year and not the first time I’ve wished for half-stars.

In this book, Kinsey is in the Sierra Nevada, so the location is different than her usual, though she does make a quick trip home mid-story. She stays in a terrible motel that conjures up Psycho and every other movie/TV episode featuring a cabin-style motel and a sinister plot. Ok, so the sinister plot goes without saying. Has there ever been a comedy featuring a cabin-style motel? When that doesn’t work out, she ends up staying at her client’s home, which has its own challenges.

The client, Selma, has hired her to investigate what her husband, Tom, was working on prior to his sudden death. Selma is supposed to be terrible–everyone in the town dislikes her–but she’s not really. She does have wildly inconsistent cooking habits, a mixture of inedible mid-century shortcut “foods”  (Jell-O with fruit cocktail and Miracle Whip? um, what?) and from-scratch baked goods. But I guess that does convey a woman of a certain era. (She is fifty-ish; this is 1986.)

There was a lot of nerd detective work in this one (digging through messy files, searching newspaper archives) and the main plot thread is the search for Tom’s last work notebook, which is missing. So that was all good. But the ending… yikes. Off the rails. Let’s just say it involves drugged brownies.

P.S. Speaking of Remington Steele, KVOS is currently showing it at 8pm weeknights. So awesome. I didn’t remember it being so campy.

You learn by failing

I don’t think of myself as an author. I think of myself as a writer, because writing is what I do. I’m always taken aback when others refer to me as “famous” or a “celebrity.” What a weird idea. The concept has no real application. It doesn’t serve a writer to start thinking of herself in those terms because it interferes with the work. Writing is an internal process. Success is external and not something we can control in any event. I foster that disconnect because it keeps me grounded.

My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks.

Sue Grafton

11: T is for Trespass

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Another 55 cent book from the Book Sale. Hardcover, with a jacket, and another that was not a library book.

Previously on The Remainder Table…

[S is for Silence] flips between Kinsey’s 1987 world and flashbacks to 1953 (various characters). Since Kinsey is not a party to the 1953 flashbacks, the reader always knows more than she does. I’m not thrilled with this device. In a detective story, I think it’s best if we stick to the detective’s PoV—this is the only way the reader can play along (and isn’t that what a detective story is about?).

I’d forgotten about this. In T, while most of the story is told from Kinsey’s PoV, some of the chapters are told from the villain’s PoV. As with the flashbacks in S, I wasn’t excited about this device—I don’t think Grafton provided any insights into the character that we couldn’t have gotten another way. And it mitigated the suspense. Sure, there was still the “what is she going to do?” suspense, but there was no “who’s the villain?” More importantly, it put the reader ahead of Kinsey from the very beginning, which made Kinsey look kind of slow when she finally did catch on (which seems kind of unfair to the character).

I’m guessing that Grafton couldn’t think of a way to create doubt as to who the villain was with this particular storyline, so that’s why she went this route. But I think it would have been possible, if some of the minor characters had been played up more.

In T, what would normally be the side plot turns into the main plot. Kinsey’s neighbor, 89-year-old Gus, falls and dislocates his shoulder. He needs help while he recovers, but his only relative is a great-great-niece in NY. Kinsey manages to locate the niece, and she makes a brief visit to Santa Teresa. But because Gus is a Grumpy Old Man, she has trouble finding a home care nurse for him. When she finally finds someone, she only has Kinsey do a cursory background check, because she is eager to get back to her life in NY. Duh-duh-duh!

I enjoyed T more than S. But I know if I think about it too much, the whole thing will fall apart. (So I’m not going to ;-))

Here’s the thing. I know Kinsey Millhone isn’t great literature, but also know if I come across another in the series, I will probably read it. It’s reading junk food! nomnomnom It’s not even so much about the series itself, but about the fact that reading it also reminds me of reading the first books in the series, back when my favorite TV show was Remington Steele and my career aspiration was to be either a police detective, a private investigator, or a cat burglar.

Random tidbit: Grafton’s pet word is “ease”: people are forever easing onto stools, cars easing out of driveways, etc. etc.

Haha. It’s true! She still likes ease, but its noticeability was eclipsed by her new pet word (phrase?): “thumb lock.” I assume she means a deadbolt. I’ve never heard them referred to as thumb locks before.

14: S is for Silence

S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

S is for Silence

So I finished the final paper of my coursework (thesis, here I come) and wanted to read something fast and fun. The Kinsey Millhone series is a holdover from another era; I read some of the early books when they first came out (A, B, etc.) and while I haven’t kept up with the series, I’ll read them if they fall into my lap. My mom passed this one on to me.

S is set in 1987; Kinsey is 37. Out of curiosity, I looked up when A is for Alibi was first published—1982 (hmm, that really was another era!). Since Kinsey was 32 in the first book, this means that the initial book of the series was set in the present, but now the series is set firmly in the past. Nothing against setting stories in the past, but this is kind of weird for a series, don’t you think? To have it be contemporary to begin with, but become historical? I mean, this book reads very differently to me now than A did when I read it in the early 80s.

I imagine there are two reasons Grafton might have decided to do this. One, had the books remained contemporary, Kinsey would now be 57. While she certainly could still be a PI at 57, it seems likely that other aspects of her life would have changed in that period of time. Like she might not be living in a garage apartment, her landlord (who was 80-something in A) would probably not be still living, and Chardonnay might no longer be her drink of choice. And we all know that genre books like to maintain their worlds once they’ve been established. Two: the Internet & cell phones. Kinsey is still using payphones, answering machines, and doing research at the library. And while I can see plenty of reasons why an author might want to set a story pre-Internet & cell phone, in a series this long, I think it would have been more interesting for readers to see Kinsey adapt to these changes (as real PIs have had to do if they have been in business over the past 25 years).

In S, Kinsey investigates a cold case. A woman hires her to investigate her mother’s disappearance in 1953. The story flips between Kinsey’s 1987 world and flashbacks to 1953 (various characters). Since Kinsey is not a party to the 1953 flashbacks, the reader always knows more than she does. I’m not thrilled with this device. In a detective story, I think it’s best if we stick to the detective’s PoV—this is the only way the reader can play along (and isn’t that what a detective story is about?). Also not thrilled with the ending; while not quite a deus ex machina, the baddy turns out to be peripheral character (it is foreshadowed, but it still seems lame). It’s a soap opera ending, the easy way out. Overall, the story was kind of plodding. The flashbacks contributed to this, I think, but also the overly long description. Everything was described in great detail! (Were the earlier books like this? I don’t remember.) Too much. And I like description.

Random tidbit: Grafton’s pet word is “ease”: people are forever easing onto stools, cars easing out of driveways, etc. etc.