I just recently (as in earlier this morning) finished reading A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. I had only heard of this author and series in recent years, as she has become increasingly popular, and decided to pick this one up in my quest for new reading material. I will most likely continue on with the series because my interest is piqued but whether I’ll finish it is dubious.
My first thought upon reading this book is the the author, Miss (Mrs? Ms?) Grafton doesn’t seem like an established writer. Her writing is tense and terse which does go with the personality of Kinsey Millhone, the private detective protagonist of the series, but also makes reading feel very choppy. Additionally, the use of tense is amateur; I would have known better in my high school English classes than to switch tense the way the author does.
Still, the reader is drawn to Kinsey Millhone and the book which is, if you couldn’t guess, a mystery. I like mysteries, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t like them too mysterious. I don’t like being in too much suspense; it pisses me off. But I didn’t need to worry about that in this book. Although it’s fast moving and takes a few surprise turns, it’s believable and not stomach-upsetting.
I also felt that both contents and style of writing were dated which makes sense considering that this book is over 2 decades years old, older than myself in fact. I was quite surprised to read that this book was originally published in 1983; as I’d mentioned, I’d only recently heard of Sue Grafton who is, by the way, 60-some years old. My estimate of her age by her style of writing.
Anyway, in this story Kinsey Millhone is hired by Nikki Fife to investigate the murder of her ex-husband for which she was imprisoned 8 (or was it 9 years?). Pleading innocent she sends Kinsey on a chase which has long been dead but being the ever stubborn and dare-I-say anal detective that she is, Kinsey pushes on even when the trail seems to be cold.
Eventually, after interviewing those surrounding the case, becoming romantically involved with one of her suspects, being present at a break in and listening on the other end of the phone as a potential lead is murdered, the clues start adding up and Kinsey discovers who is, in fact, behind the murder of Nikki’s husband Laurence Fife and also, coincidentally, a woman who was murdered in the same fashion shortly after.
“And in the end should someone die?” Yes and that someone, though I won’t name names, dies because Kinsey shoots him. Actually she – and I quote – “blew him away.” I’m not entirely sure the hard ass personality of Kinsey is something you can always believe and it is with that line which I am most skeptical, but I go went with it anyway.
At the end of this book I was flabbergasted; it was just so short. At 200+ pages, it’s not an epic novel by any means so perhaps the fantasy books I’ve been reading make for a poor comparison because there is a full story in here. I hope that, in future novels, Miss Grafton chooses to elongate her stories a bit more, clean up her writing, and modernize the content and style.
Overall A is for Alibi is a book worth reading, even if it is 20 years old and especially if you can let some things go to aid the suspension of disbelief.