To be read with: cheap white wine from your favourite local haunt, where a cold glass is always waiting for you to come unwind. (This brand name actually makes sense with one of the story lines as well!)
I am wholly unapologetic about my love for Sue Grafton. At a young age I picked up one of her alphabetized crime novels and fell in love with the main character, private investigator Kinsey Millhone. I enjoy crime/suspense/thriller novels, and it’s a bonus when the lead character is a strong woman. However in opposition to other female crime novel leads ie) Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta or Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan, Kinsey doesn’t have an independently wealthy boyfriend backing her, or an entire police department at her beck and call. She’s a lone wolf who is socially awkward and gets her face punched a lot. She relies on her own guile and strength to unravel the mysteries she’s hired to sleuth.
One of my favourite things about this series is that it is consistently set in the 1980’s. Grafton started the series around that time and Kinsey ages slowly as the books keep coming and coming. While we’re on our smart phones trying to get spoilers for the latest book or movie, Kinsey must still hoof it to the library to examine microfiche rolls in order to find old newspaper articles. She has to call a telephone operator to requests numbers and addresses, and use old photos to try and recognize perps and witnesses. I find this to be the genuine art of gumshoe detecting. Oh and all of her reports are typed on her portable Smith-Corona. My girl crush just compounded.
The characters in each of these novels are compelling and multi-faceted. For the reader, it’s not just about finding out who committed the crime; it’s about finding out why. ‘X’ is certainly no exception in this, and provides quite a lovely twist ending in one of the crimes that Kinsey is investigating. Murder and intrigue abound, with classic Kinsey sarcasm, Henry’s good nature of course being taken advantage of, and plenty of trips to Rosie’s to sip on cheap white wine and discuss investigation details. New enough to keep the reader interested, but also weighted with the characters and places that long-time readers have come to love.
In regards to the fact that the series will be coming to its end within a couple years, I am not of the ilk that believes Grafton will kill Kinsey off when we get to Z. I will concede that Henry may die, or even Ed the cat, which will be terrible but not devastating (the man is 89 for goodness’ sake) however I would be pissed if she killed Kinsey at 39. I’m predicting that her rarely-touched savings account and the gorgeous Robert Dietz will come into play. I think Kinsey will grudgingly ride into the sunset, snarky comments the whole way to her happy ending.
I recommend this book whole heartedly. For those who haven’t read the series, please do. You definitely don’t need to have though, as there is always a brief exposition explaining Kinsey’s backstory and all the relevant characters. Maybe this is the one that hooks you and then you’ll go back and read the series!