Archive for December 14th, 2009

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.

Wow. It’s hard to believe the Kinsey Millhone series is up to U. The first book in the series, A is for Alibi, was published in 1982, and Grafton has continued through the alphabet at a pace of one book, more or less, a year. I joined the series in 1988, with E is for Evidence, and backtracked to catch up on the first few titles.

The heroine of the alphabet series is now approaching her 38th birthday, single and unattached, and living in the tiny, perfect converted garage that she rents from her octogenarian landlord and friend Henry. In this outing, Kinsey is called upon to follow up on a 20 year old cold case when a young man comes to her with his memory of a possible gravesite. Michael Sutton, now 27, has recently had an epiphany of sorts, connecting a strange encounter he had with men in the woods when he was 6 years old with the kidnapping of a little girl that took place in that year. Trouble is, Michael has had some significant mental health issues. Is he a reliable source? The story jumps back and forth between Kinsey’s investigation to the year of kidnapping, when the events that led up to the kidnapping were coming together.

Meanwhile, Kinsey, who grew up thinking she had no family outside of her Aunt Ginny who raised her, is learning more about her own history and healing old wounds.

Grafton does a fine job of bringing the various elements of the story together. The plot draws the reader along at a leisurely but steady pace. The characters are well-drawn and come alive in Grafton’s hands, exhibiting the considerable skill she has honed as she has grown in maturity as a writer at the same time that Kinsey has matured as an investigator. I read the book in several long, enjoyable sittings. If you haven’t read any of the books in the alphabet series, you might want to start at the beginning. However, U is for Undertow is a good tale that stands up well on its own.

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