“U is for Undertow” by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone is a gutsy private eye. It takes me back to when I was a little girl and read the Nancy Drew mysteries. Nancy was my hero, or I suppose heroine. Kinsey is the same. I really admire how she moves through life. I’ve seen her fall in love and out of love in the different books I’ve read. She isn’t an aluminum plated super-hero. She’s as normal and as warped as any of us is, but still, she’s got a courageousness that I admire. I haven’t read them all; just the ones that come my way. And, it really doesn’t matter if you hopscotch all over the alphabet to read her stories.
In this one an emotionally troubled young man has a flashback to when he was 6 years old and brings a case to Kinsey. He can only afford to pay her $500 for one day’s work. He’s read an account of an unsolved kidnapping that happened years before. Every year the town’s newspaper runs an article about how Mary Claire vanished and was never heard from again. When Michael Sutton reads the news article his troubled memory flashes on two men digging a hole. They told the little 6 year old boy they were pirates and were digging for treasure. Michael believed them then, but when he revisits that old memory he realizes it was around that time that Mary Claire disappeared.
And, so the story goes. You can get a good feel for how Kinsey takes all sorts of facts and finally puts the pieces together to make a plausible story.
Sue Grafton’s Alphabet novels aren’t just about the cases Kinsey Millhone takes on. They are about Kinsey too so that as you read more and more of them you get to know Kinsey, the character, in a way that makes her as memorable and as real as she must be to Sue Grafton.
I’m a writer, but I was a reader first and I always felt a sense of sadness as I waved goodbye to the characters I’d come to love in whatever book I was reading at the time. There was this sense of regret that I would never meet them again, so when I am able to latch onto a writer who can’t say goodbye to their people either my heart does a little happy dance and I curl up again with a good book.