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First Read for Cozy Mystery Challenge

The spell is broken, thanks to the Cozy Mystery Challenge! and to the numerous power outages we had yesterday. For most of Sunday, I kicked back in a comfy easy chair and read U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton.

Grafton is known for her mystery series featuring Kinsey Millhone, a private detective who works in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, which resembles Santa Barbara. Every year or two since the mid 1980s, Grafton has published another adventure of the 30-ish, tough, and vulnerable Kinsey. Some people call Grafton the alphabet mystery author. Her first book is called A is for Alibi, her second B is for Burglar, and so on.  Four more titles and she'll be out of letters. I wonder if by letter Z that will be the end of Millhone. I hope not.

In U is for Undertow, a young man hires Kinsey to check out the truth of his memory. When he was six years old he came across two guys burying something in the woods. He thinks that what he saw was them burying the body of the four-year old neighborhood girl who had been kidnapped. The problem is that his family thinks he is unreliable. Grafton weaves the story back and forth between the past (mid 1960s) and the present (1988).

There is a secondary story going on and that is Kinsey's unweaving of her personal mystery. Kinsey was four or five when her parents were killed in a car crash. Raised by her mother's sister, Kinsey did not know she had any other relatives until a few years. Cousins, aunties, and a grandmother have been trying to reunite with her, but Kinsey has put up a wall. She is angry that they never tried to get in touch with until her 30s.

I haven't read a Kinsey tale since either N is for Noose or O is for Outlaw, which was about 10 years ago. Grafton is still a master storyteller, spinning her story tightly. You, the reader, are right there with Kinsey, as well as with the author, trying to make all the loose ends of the mystery fit.  I like how Kinsey has matured since the last time I read her adventures. She's still the matter-of-fact gumshoe who is very thorough in her job; but she's become less brittle about life and more open at accepting the humanity of people, and essentially herself.

Reading U is for Undertow was a great way to spend a Sunday.


  1. OMG! I haven't read Sue Grafton's series in years! I read and loved maybe the first five. I couldn't keep up. Your post makes me wonder if I should try again. They were fun reads.

  2. I so agree, Jackie. Sue Grafton's novels are fun to read. I'm inspired by her dedication to giving us at least 26 Kinsey adventures.

  3. You know, I read the first in the series and that was it. I liked it..but for some reason I can't make myself read the second...even though I own most of them.

  4. Kris, how long ago did you read the first one? Maybe you're ready to read one now. I have a bunch of books that have been waiting for years for me to get in the mood that I was when I first glance at them. Funny how that goes.

  5. It's been a couple of years. haha! I really do need to pick up the next one.


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