Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"A" is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone is in many ways a typical P.I. Tough, strong, laconic. Falls seldom, but usually for the wrong person. A former cop, she lives in a tiny apartment with few possessions and quirky neighbors. Aside from the fact of her gender, not a whole lot to set her apart from the genre standard. And, for the first half or two-thirds of "A" is for Alibi, there's not a whole lot to set this story apart from the genre standard.  


It starts with a new case. Nikki Fife, a beautiful dame, just released from serving eight years for killing her husband, wants Kinsey to prove her innocence. She takes the job. She investigates. People get killed along the way. First one, then another, then another, seems to be the true killer. She solves the case.  


It's not until that last third or so that the reader begins to see an inkling of what has brought readers clamoring to book stores for each successive installment of this series for the last twenty-eight years. It's as if, all at once, inspiration hits Sue Grafton. Her character becomes more interesting and more singular, the plot takes some juicy turns and there it is.  


Definitely worth a read, especially as the first in one of the most beloved mystery series around. One wonders, though, why Grafton's editor didn't ask her to go back and try to inject some of the spark she found at the end of her book into the beginning.


IF THIS TITLE INTERESTS YOU...


Ah, there are so many directions to go, so I'll just recommend a couple of my favorite writers of dark, California based thrillers. Michael Connelly, former crime beat journalist for the L.A. Times, has been writing gorgeous dark, atmospheric thrillers for many years. Harry Bosch is the LAPD detective who takes a starring role in many of his titles; The Black Echo is the first of these. Then there's Robert Crais, whose Elvis Cole is a classic wise-cracking P.I. The Monkey's Raincoat is the first Elvis Cole.

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