A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
I don't know about you, but I find I swerve from genre to genre in my reading. Having had a phase of modern American novels, I found myself in the mood for a bit of crime! I have been reading Sue Grafton for about 20 years and I love these novels. They remind me of The Rockford Files and Quincy M.E, TV shows that my family watched growing up. They have that early 1980s Californian filter where the sun always shines, the computers were massive and people wore a lot of brown.
This book kicks off the alphabet murders series, a set of novels by Sue Grafton each with a letter of the alphabet and introduces us to her private eye anti-heroine Kinsey Millhone.
Nikki Fife has always maintained that she was innocent after being convicted of the murder of her husband, Laurence. Laurence was an aggressive divorce lawyer, who having saved his clients a lot of money, would then have affairs with them. On her release from prison Nikki hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who did kill Laurence. Kinsey must piece together events from 8 years ago and find a killer. A killer happy to see an innocent woman go to prison for his crimes and will do anything to ensure it stays that way.
These books are not flashy nor is Kinsey a superhero. Kinsey, at times, is flawed, trusting few people, but this is more than made up by her tenacity. We see her painstakingly put together the puzzle pieces of the crime, in a time when the internet did not yet heavily feature. Kinsey sorts through the vast amount of evidence, paper and phone books to gather the information that she requires. She is not frightened to ask the hard questions of the toughest nuts and is blessed with an abundance of street smarts.
Best of all, Kinsey feels real and an authentic investigator. Her private life is, at times, complicated. She often gets involved with the wrong man but she never loses sight of who she is.
The book has a great supporting cast; Kinsey's landlord, the elegant and youthful 80 year old Henry Pitts, Rosie terrifying owner of Kinsey's favourite restaurant and Con Dolan a grizzled cop who remains skeptical of Kinsey's methods.
At the time, this novel appeared on the shelves with another female protagonists - the VI Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky and Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, but it is Kinsey who feels the most real. She runs every day and then has a burger, fries and coke. As I say her life may be a mess, but she gets the job done.
These are a great set of books and it was lovely to revisit my old friend Kinsey.