Kinsey Millhone

u is for undertow

u is for undertow
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It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's thirty-eighth birthday, and she's alone in her office catching up on paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy a beer, but Michael Sutton is twenty-seven, an unemployed college dropout. More than two decades ago, a four-year-old girl disappeared, and a recent newspaper story about her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial and could identify the killers if he saw them again. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the grave and finding the men. It's way more than a long shot, but he's persistent and willing to pay cash up front. Reluctantly, Kinsey agrees to give him one day of her time.

 

But it isn't long before she discovers Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his story true, or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?

 

Moving between the 1980s and the 1960s, and changing points of view as Kinsey pursues witnesses whose accounts often clash, Grafton builds multiple subplots and memorable characters. Gradually we see how everything connects in this thriller. And as always, at the heart of her fiction is Kinsey Millhone, a sharp-tongued, observant loner who never forgets that under the thin veneer of civility is a roiling dark side to the soul 

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k is for killer

k is for killer
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When Kinsey Millhone answers her office door late one night, she lets in more darkness than she realizes. Janice Kepler is a grieving mother who can't let the death of her beautiful daughter Lorna alone. The police agree that Lorna was murdered, but a suspect was never apprehended and the trail is now ten months cold. Kinsey pieces together Lorna's young life: a dull day job a the local water treatment plant spiced by sidelines in prostitution and pornography. She tangles with Lorna's friends: a local late-night DJ; a sweet, funny teenaged hooker; Lorna's sloppy landlord and his exotic wife. But to find out which one, if any, turned killer, Kinsey will have to inhabit a netherworld from which she may never return.

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b is for burglar

b is for burglar
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Although business has been slow lately for P.I. Kinsey Millhone, she's reluctant to take on the case of locating Beverly Danziger's sister Elaine Boldt. It's a small matter that Beverly should be able to handle herself. So why is she enlisting Kinsey's services? Beverly claims she needs Elaine's signature on some documents so that she can collect a small inheritance. But the whole affair doesn't sit well with Kinsey. And if there's something she's learned in her line of work, it's to always follow your instincts…

 

Kinsey's hunch proves true when she begins her inquiries into Elaine's whereabouts and discovers that the attractive widow was last seen in a flashy lynx coat boarding a plane for Boca Raton. But the more Kinsey searches for Elaine the more questions she encounters. Is Elaine's disappearance tied in to the brutal murder several months ago of one of her bridge partners? And what happened to Elaine's Persian cat who seems to have also vanished?

 

Things take a turn for the worse when a stranger vandalizes the home of one of Elaine's neighbors and another neighbor turns up murdered. With her reputation and career on the line, Kinsey risks all to find a missing woman and a killer who's waiting in the shadows to strike again…

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t is for trespass

t is for trespass
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In what may be her most unsettling novel to date, Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass is also her most direct confrontation with the forces of evil. Beginning slowly with the day-to-day life of a private eye, Grafton suddenly shifts from the voice of Kinsey Millhone to that of Solana Rojas, introducing readers to a chilling sociopath. Rojas is not her birth name. It is an identity she cunningly stole, an identity that gives her access to private caregiving jobs. The true horror of the novel builds with excruciating tension as the reader foresees the awfulness that lies ahead. The suspense lies in whether Millhone will realize what is happening in time to intervene. 

 

Though set in the late eighties, T is for Trespass could not be more topical: identity theft; elder abuse; betrayal of trust; the breakdown in the institutions charged with caring for the weak and the dependent. It reveals a terrifying but all-too-real rip in the social fabric. Once again, Grafton opens up new territory with startling results.

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x

x
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X:  The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss.

 

X:  The shortest entry in Webster’s Unabridged. Derived from Greek and Latin and commonly found in science, medicine, and religion. The most graphically dramatic letter. Notoriously tricky to pronounce: think xylophone.

 

X:  The twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet.

 

Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

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w is for wasted

w is for wasted
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Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.

 

The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. He’d been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. It looked like a robbery gone bad. The other was on the beach six weeks later. He’d been sleeping rough. Probably homeless. No identification. A slip of paper with Millhone’s name and number was in his pants pocket. The coroner asked her to come to the morgue to see if she could ID him.

 

Two seemingly unrelated deaths, one a murder, the other apparently of natural causes.

 

But as Kinsey digs deeper into the mystery of the John Doe, some very strange linkages begin to emerge. And before long at least one aspect is solved as Kinsey literally finds the key to his identity. “And just like that,” she says, “the lid to Pandora’s box flew open. It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself.”

 

In this multilayered tale, the surfaces seem clear, but the underpinnings are full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and outright murderous fraud. And Kinsey, through no fault of her own, is thoroughly compromised.

 

W is for . . . wanderer . . . worthless . . . wronged . . .

 

W is for wasted. 

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s is for silence

s is for silence
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The nineteenth novel in Sue Grafton's ever popular 'alphabet' series featuring PI Kinsey Millhone.

 

Just after Independence Day in July 1953 Violet Sullivan, a local good time girl living in Serena Station Southern California, drives off in her brand new Chevy and is never seen again. Left behind is her young daughter, Daisy, and Violet's impetuous husband, Foley, who had been persuaded to buy his errant wife the car only days before . . .

 

Now, thirty-five years later, Daisy wants closure.

 

Reluctant to open such an old cold case Kinsey Millhone agrees to spend five days investigating, believing at first that Violet simply moved on to pastures new. But very soon it becomes clear that a lot of people shared a past with Violet, a past that some are still desperate to keep hidden. And in a town as close-knit as Serena there aren't many places to hide when things turn vicious . . .

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v is for vengeance

v is for vengeance
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A spiderweb of dangerous relationships lies at the heart of V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton's daring new Kinsey Millhone novel. A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

 

And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.

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n is for noose

n is for noose
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Kinsey Millhone should have done something else—she should have turned the car in the direction of home. Instead, she was about to put herself in the gravest jeopardy of her career.

 

Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriff's office—a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the townsfolk were saddened but not surprised: Just shy of sixty-five, Newquist worked too hard, smoked too much, and exercised too little. That plus an appetite for junk food made him a poster boy for an American Heart Association campaign.

 

Newquist's widow didn't doubt the coroner's report. But what Selma couldn't accept was not knowing what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night, that had him brooding constantly? Selma Newquist wanted closure, and the only way she'd get it was if she found out what it was that had so bedeviled her husband.

 

Kinsey should have dumped the case. It was vague and hopeless, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, she set up shop in Nota Lake, where she found that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood. Very likely, her own.

 

"N" is for Noose: a novel in which Kinsey Millhone becomes the target and an entire town seems in for the kill.

 

Still sassy, still the smartest lady detective out there on the beat' Daily Express 

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r is for ricochet

r is for ricochet
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Reba Lafferty was a daughter of privilege, the only child of an adoring father. Nord Lafferty was already in his fifties when Reba was born, and he could deny her nothing. Over the years, he quietly settled her many scrapes with the law, but he wasn't there for her when she was convicted of embezzlement and sent to the California Institution for Women. Now, at thirty-two, she is about to be paroled, having served twenty-two months of a four-year sentence. Nord Lafferty wants to be sure she stays straight, stays at home and away from the drugs, the booze, the gamblers." "It seems a straightforward assignment for Kinsey: babysit Reba until she settles in, make sure she follows all the rules of her parole. Maybe all of a week's work. Nothing untoward - the woman seems remorseful and friendly. And the money is good." But life is never that simple, and Reba is out of prison less than twenty-four hours when one of her old crowd comes circling round

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q is for quarry

q is for quarry
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She was a "Jane Doe," an unidentified white female whose decomposed body was discovered near a quarry off California's Highway 1. The case fell to the Santa Teresa County Sheriff's Department, but the detectives had little to go on. The woman was young, her hands were bound with a length of wire, there were multiple stab wounds, and her throat had been slashed. After months of investigation, the murder remained unsolved.

 

That was eighteen years ago. Now the two men who found the body, both nearing the end of long careers in law enforcement, want one last shot at the case. Old and ill, they need someone to help with their legwork and they turn to Kinsey Millhone. They will, they tell her, find closure if they can just identify the victim. Kinsey is intrigued and agrees to the job.

 

But revisiting the past can be a dangerous business, and what begins with the pursuit of Jane Doe's real identity ends in a high-risk hunt for her killer.

 

"Q" is for Quarry is based on an unsolved homicide that occurred in 1969, and Grafton's interest in the case has generated renewed police efforts. During the past year, the body was exhumed and a nationally known forensic artist did the facial reconstruction that appears in the closing pages of "Q" is for Quarry. Both Grafton and the dedicated members of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department are hoping the photograph will trigger memories that may lead to a positive identification.

 

On the day Jane Doe was reburied, many officers were at the gravesite. "It's eerie," Grafton writes, "to think about the power this woman still has. Here we are, thirty-three years later, and she still wants to go home."

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m is for malice

m is for malice
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"M" is for money. Lots of it. "M" is for Malek Construction, the $40 million company that grew out of modest soil to become one of the big three in California and, uniquely, remains in family hands. Eighteen years ago, one of the sons of the family went missing. Now "M" is for Millhone, hired to trace that missing black sheep. Though Kinsey Millhone succeeds in her search, this prodical son will find no welcome at his family's table. And, in the all-too-common outcome of familial hate "M" winds up standing for murder.

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l is for lawless

l is for lawless
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Both new readers and old fans will welcome this 12th Kinsey Milhone adventure in the "A" is for Alibi series by Sue Grafton. In this case, Kinsey agrees to do a favor for a friend of a friend and gets herself into so much trouble that she promises at the outset never to do such a thing again without careful consideration. 

 

Henry Pitt, her longtime landlord asks her to help a fellow neighbor find evidence that his grandfather served in the military during the Second World War. With such proof, the man can be decently buried, courtesy of the U.S. government. It seems such a simple thing, but with Kinsey, it rarely is. Before long she finds herself entangled with an eccentric and quarrelsome family as well as a long lost buddy who has turned up just in time to get himself beaten up in a robbery attempt of the alleged veteran's apartment. It seems there is a reason the Armed Services have no record of the dead man's service. Kinsey sets out to determine what he might have been doing instead of fighting against the Japanese and why someone might think his shabby apartment worth a burgle.

Typical of the series, the mystery is not the central point of the story, but rather a starting point for Kinsey to become embroiled in a suspenseful (and delightful) search-and-rescue operation, usually against her better judgement. In this case, a gun-toting, arthritic octogenarian and revelations of the inner workings of bargain-rate motels are all part of the adventure. This is an easy and enjoyable read, and a solid addition to Grafton's string of alphabetical hits. --K.A. Crouch

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j is for judgment

j is for judgment
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Wendell Jaffe looks great for a dead man! He’s been six feet under for five years ago—until his former insurance agent spots him at a dusty resort bar in Mexico. Now California Fidelity wants its insurance money back. Can P.I. Kinsey Millhone get on the case?

 

Just two months earlier, Jaffe’s widow pocketed $500,000 in insurance benefits after Jaffe went overboard. Was his “pseudocide” a last-ditch effort to do right by his beloved wife? Perhaps. But how would that explain the new woman in Jaffe’s second life?

 

Kinsey is in for the long haul as she delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Jaffe’s life and death…and discovers that, in family matters as in crime, sometimes it's better to reserve judgment…

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o is for outlaw

o is for outlaw
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Through fourteen books, fans have been fed short rations when it comes to Kinsey Millhone's past: a morsel here, a dollop there. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, the long-lost family up the California coast. But husband number one remained a blip on the screen until now.

 

The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them—Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions, but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter.

 

It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril."O" Is for Outlaw: Kinsey's fifteenth adventure into the dark side of human nature.

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