Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kinsey and Me - Sue Grafton

First line: (From the first short story "Between the Sheets") "I squinted at the woman sitting across the desk from me."

KINSEY AND ME is a collection of short fiction with a few additional non-fiction/commentary articles from Sue Grafton. The first section of the book is comprised of Kinsey Millhone short stories. These have a very Sherlock Holmesian style to them. A mystery is presented and Kinsey does some investigating and begins to formulate an idea of "whodunnit." Then she reveals the culprit and the clues that led to her conclusion.

In "Between the Sheets" a woman finds her lover dead in her young daughters bed, shot to death. (The young daughter is off with her father for visitation, don't worry, nothing hinky on that front!) Instead of going to the police, the woman visits Kinsey. When Kinsey returns to the scene of the crime, the body is gone along with the evidence. She has to figure out not only whodunnit but who-movedit and where.

"Long Gone" is the second Kinsey short and in this case, Kinsey is hired to find out what happened to a man's wife. He's home with their young boys and there's no sign of the wife. When Kinsey visits her place of employment, she learns the wife made off with about $500,000 from her company. So Kinsey sets out to find exactly where the mother/wife is.

"The Parker Shotgun" finds Kinsey investigating the death of a reformed-drug-dealing-soon-to-father. The man's wife feels the cops have written the homicide off as a drug deal gone wrong and she wants his name cleared before their baby is born. He was killed with an expensive shotgun that had been given to him as a payment for drugs, and the gun is now nowhere to be found.

The fourth short featuring Kinsey is called "Non Sung Smoke." A young woman comes to Kinsey for help finding a guy she hooked up with the night before. Kinsey quickly finds the man, informs the young woman and the next day the man is on the front page of the newspaper. Dead.

A book club features into "Falling Off the Roof." When a man hires Kinsey to find out the truth about his brother's "accidental death" (he fell off the roof of his house), Kinsey winds up invited to the dead man's wife's book club, hoping to find the answer to more than the mystery in the book they are reading.

Shirese "Sis" Dunaway hires Kinsey in "A Poison That Leaves No Trace." Sis has just discovered that her estranged sister died. No one informed her that the sister was sick, and Sis thinks there's something fishy going on with her niece and the death of her sister.

"Full Circle" starts off with Kinsey witnessing a significant car accident that results in the death of a young girl. The girl's mother wants Kinsey to investigate after it's discovered that the girl died of a gunshot wound.

"A Little Missionary Work" was my favorite of the Kinsey shorts. She's hired by a famous actress when her actor husband is kidnapped. The kidnapping bears a striking resemblance to another recent kidnapping that ended in a man's murder.

The "Kinsey" section of the book ends with the short story "The Lying Game." While doing surveillance on a couple of brothers who were recently released from a murder charge on a technicality, Kinsey is discovered. To get herself out of the mess, she has to play the "lying game."

The Kinsey shorts echo other mystery plots that have played out through the ages. The content is not especially unique or special, but Kinsey fans will likely find this a satisfying fix while they wait for the next full-length adventure with the 32-year-old, female private investigator. (Kinsey impresses her age on the reader in each short. I found this rather amusing.)

The real gem of this book, however, comes in the end. First the Kinsey shorts are followed by a wonderful commentary from Grafton called "An Eye for an I: Justice, Morality, the Nature of the Hard-boiled Private Investigator,  and All that Existential Stuff." She discusses the evolution of the PI in crime fiction. This short piece is a must-read for all crime fiction fans.

The finale of the book is a series of short stories featuring an autobiographical character named Kit Blue. In an introduction to the section, Grafton says, "Kinsey Millhone is the person I might have been had I not married young and had children." She goes on to say, "If Kinsey Millhone is my alter ego, Kit Blue is simply a younger version of me." The stories featuring Kit are a glimpse of the life Grafton experienced growing up with alcoholic parents. This section of the book is raw, real and revealing. Sue Grafton swallows two jiggers of courage and lets the world in on her personal experience. You can't help but be moved.

KINSEY AND ME is available today in hardcover (ISBN: 9780399163838) from Putnam. There is also an unabridged audiobook version (ISBN: 9781611761573) from Penguin Audio narrated by Judy Kaye.


bermudaonion January 8, 2013 at 7:57 AM  

I really liked this book too! The Kinsey stories were short but great!

Shelleyrae January 8, 2013 at 8:59 AM  

I must get my hands on this - I love Kinsey! Thanks for sharing!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

LisaMM January 8, 2013 at 2:55 PM  

Falling Off the Roof sounds fun! Well, maybe fun isn't the right word, ha ha. But I love book club tie-ins! And I love Sue Grafton. Kinsey Milhone is one of my favorite characters. I've read so much Grafton that she seems like a real person to me.

Bella January 8, 2013 at 8:48 PM  

I'm so glad you posted this. Everything else I've read about this book just says that there are Kinsey stories with the second half giving insight into Sue Grafton's relation ship with her mother.

Nowhere except here has detailed new short stories in both halves of the book.

Thanks for clearing this up and my Nook will now have a new resident!

Jen January 9, 2013 at 1:26 AM  

Hi Bella! Thanks so much for your comment. It makes my heart smile to hear that the blog has been useful to a reader. :-)

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