"KINSEY AND ME," by Sue Grafton, a Marion Wood Book, $27.95, 283 pages (f)
Sue Grafton fans waiting anxiously for the next letter in the mystery alphabet series of books featuring Kinsey Milhone can sit back and relish "Kinsey and Me," or parts of it anyway.
Grafton has crafted nine short stories that have Milhone doing what she does, walking unapologetically into situations that require nerve, verve and solid detective work done with humor and class.
She interacts with children whom she claims not to like, but she's impressively insightful and kind with the 4-year-old caught up in her parents' difficulties.
She deals with a self-sabotaging felon who deserves and gets a break from her. She encounters a book club of not-so-nice ladies. She's smart and funny, though she doesn't appear to be working at it.
In addition, though, there are 13 stories in the back about "Kit Blue," a girl growing up and mothering her alcoholic mother. They're depressing stories actually.
Grafton is taking the opportunity in this collection of pieces to explain herself through Kit Blue. Grafton tells of her unhappy childhood, her personal struggles, and how the character of Milhone came to be.
It's interesting but a downer.
Readers used to following the adventures of an upbeat, pragmatic heroine will find the Kit stories and the lengthy preface and introduction to be "too much information."
While Grafton has very good reasons for telling her story, it's much more fun to dive into the Milhone stories and ignore reality.
Milhone has risen above similar circumstances, basically raising herself and depending on no one but herself for comfort, companionship and guidance.
She goes on to work as a private investigator who solves mysteries and find answers in unconventional ways. (She picks locks like a pro and isn't above a little breaking and entering when the case warrants it.)
She's likable and sturdy.
And as Grafton comes to the end of the alphabet in her Milhone series with only four letters left ("V is for Vengeance" was her most recent book), she's probably feeling a need to explain herself and build a platform for a new series, perhaps featuring Kit.
However, it's an uneasy shift, a new direction for readers who may not follow.
"Kinsey and Me" has some adult language and situations and readers younger than 16 may find the revelations disturbing.
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