U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
|U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Not so much whodunit as why. An enthralling new episode in the Kinsey Millhone saga.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2010|
Several years ago I joined a funny little book group in London, and one of the first books we read was a Sue Grafton alphabet book. I had, up to this point, never read any crime fiction, foolishly feeling myself above such books, and so I was dubious about what I'd have to say about it. That book changed my literary life. I devoured it. I couldn't get enough! I immediately searched for all the other books in the series and read them quickly, one by one, swiftly followed by a delicious plunge into the world of Agatha Christie which gave me a joyously long reading list. And so now, years later, I find myself with the latest book in the alphabet series lying in my lap, a happy smile on my face as I found I read voraciously once again!
I don't know that I can explain quite why I like these books so much. They're like my dirty little secret when it comes to reading. Well, these and Star Trek novels. I find the P.I. in question, Kinsey Millhone, to be an interesting and feisty character, and I confess I've sometimes wondered if it might have been fun to have become a Private Investigator like her. I'm not always entirely sure I like Kinsey, but I adore her elderly neighbour and confidant, Henry, and I always find myself immediately caught up in whatever trouble she has managed to stumble into. I think Grafton's writing has developed throughout the series. She's maintained this character for over twenty years, moving through the alphabet with each title, and just as Kinsey has remained believable, the stories have grown in scope and depth. This latest title is an excellent read, even if you know nothing about Kinsey as there's enough quick back story to get you started and then, really, this book is mainly about the crime and characters involved rather than Kinsey herself. Although having said that, for die-hard fans there is some new information regarding Kinsey's childhood and family that comes to light.
This is a complex story, with the time frame moving fluidly between the 80's and the 60's. A young man, a college drop-out with a rather dubious history of crying wolf comes to Kinsey and hires her to try and dig out the truth behind something he half-remembers from his past. He thinks that it may be related to a kidnapping that happened when he was a little boy, and so Kinsey sets about unravelling the truth. There's a large cast of characters, and we learn about some of them in great depth. You know who 'did it' from quite early on in the story, but you have no idea why, or how, and Grafton slowly, oh so slowly, drips out the clues, feeds us the story piece by piece with no extraneous information, no tangled plots, just one very cleverly managed piece of thrilling fiction.
I love the whole process of discovering the facts along with Kinsey, watching her piece the information together, yet being aware, as a reader, of the additional back story that we have been given but that Kinsey is not privy to. This isn't really a story about Kinsey, although her family history does come into play, but there is little interaction with Henry and the bulk of the book is taken up by the peripheral characters who are part of the kidnapping story. I missed Henry, but I found myself so caught up in the story that I didn't really notice his absence until the end. I really enjoyed this book. It's her best so far I think, and stands alone as a great crime thriller too. I'm eager to see how Grafton handles the next episode in the alphabet, and would highly recommend it to fans and crime fiction virgins alike.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
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