Book Reviews

Book Review: A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

When Sue Grafton passed away, I decided it was time to check out the Kinsey Millhone series of books. I’m not one to jump into the middle of a series, so I started at the beginning. Although it was published in 1982, I didn’t think I’d have a problem relating to it since I was 16 at the time and know what the word was like. I was kind of hoping for a trip down memory lane.

Told in the first person by Kinsey herself, this is the story of a twice-divorced female private investigator who has a solid background for doing this kind of work (unlike Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum). Fresh out of prison, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey to find out who really killed her husband, the crime she was sent to prison for. The jury simply convicted Nikki on the basis of motive and opportunity. Unfortunately, this many years later, the trail is cold.

Still, Kinsey pursues the case, finding out that divorce attorney Laurence Fife had plenty of enemies in town, yet no one besides Nikki was ever looked at as a suspect. As Kinsey pursues the investigation, another murder happens, and the real killer seems poised to do anything to protect their identity.

A is for Alibi was summer reading before we really knew that was a thing. My go-to author at the time was Stephen King, and whatever books looked good at the bookstore (yes, a real bookstore back then). Kinsey makes a powerful figure as a female detective who may have bad taste in men but keeps herself fit and stays mostly to herself. I could’ve related to Kinsey all my life, except for the divorces and fitness.

I enjoyed A is for Alibi quite a bit. Kinsey details everything, which can drag at times. She’ll talk in detail about where she goes jogging, or what the homes look like of the people she visits. It does wear thin at times, which is why in my rating I gave it four stars instead of five. However, understanding the situation and thinking there could be clues anywhere is the point of all of this. The reader also gets into Kinsey’s head, which is good for following along as to why she does certain things. Sometimes it’s the right choice, and sometimes it puts Kinsy in peril.

Since the series goes all the way to “Y” there’s no real expectation that anything will happen to Kinsey, so there’s that. However, it reads nicely. For me, the dated feeling of the book was no issue. I know what pay-phones, answering machines, and typewriters are and why they are used. Some readers born after 1990 might have issues with the “ancient” devices and not understand why she doesn’t just call someone from her cell phone.

A is for Alibi introduces the character and several peripheral characters who will develop as the series progresses. It’s not as silly as the Stephanie Plum novels, and gives a solid female character for us girls of that time period to root for. I only wish I had found her sooner.

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