Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: U is for Undertow

Summary: Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Even more so when Kinsey Millhone's only lead is a grown man dredging up a repressed childhood memory-of something that may never have happened... -- Berkley

It's been some time now since I've read a book by Sue Grafton, but I remember reading them fairly religiously in my younger years. And then for some reason, I stopped reading them. I can't really say why because I always remember enjoying these books. I guess they just fell victim to the idea that "there are too many books and too little time" and I began reading more literary fiction. Nonetheless, in my quest to read more mysteries this year, I thought I'd read the latest Kinsey Millhone book, U IS FOR UNDERTOW. I figured it would be a good refresher for me because I wanted to get ready for Ms. Grafton's new book which is coming out in a few short weeks. 

I am so glad that I decided to read U IS FOR UNDERTOW because I absolutely loved it. It truly was a treat to read and made me appreciate how good the Kinsey Millhone books are. I'm kind of glad that I took a step back from this series for a few years because I think the break made me enjoy this novel even more. Since I am reading quite a few mysteries for Mystery Monday, I feel as if I'm a decent judge of mysteries; and I have to say that U IS FOR UNDERTOW was highly entertaining.

In fact, I actually forgot how well written Ms. Grafton's books are; and this novel made me realize how much I have missed Kinsey and her escapades. Kinsey is just a terrific character and I love her personality. She is smart, diligent, and even a little cynical; and she is also extremely honest. I just love her as a narrator. In U IS FOR UNDERTOW, Kinsey is asked to help a man who thinks he is a witness to a 21 year old crime. His family has pretty much written him off as unreliable and his story is suspect because he was only six years old at the time of the crime; however, Kinsey takes on his case because she feels that there might be more to his memories than meet the eye.

Of course, Kinsey digs deep into the background of the murder and eventually solves the mystery. However, the case was certainly a complex one with lots of twists and turns for Kinsey. As a reader, I appreciated how Ms. Grafton decided to tell this story. There were the "Kinsey" first person narrative chapters which explored the case through Kinsey's eyes, but there were also flashback chapters about many of the main characters/suspects. While I do love Kinsey and her insightful views on life, I also really liked the chapters that took place in the past and provided some much-needed background information on the crime. Both types of chapters were extremely interesting and worked well together towards the ultimate conclusion of the mystery.

In addition to the murder mystery part of U IS FOR UNDERTOW, I also liked that there was a side story about Kinsey and her personal life. These snippets allowed me to see a more warm and compassionate side of Kinsey that isn't always readily apparent. I enjoyed seeing all of the important players in her life, like her landlord Henry, Rosie the bar owner and her cop friends, make appearances in the story; however, I also really liked seeing how Kinsey was dealing with some issues from her dysfunctional childhood.

I'm sure many of you are already fans of Ms. Grafton's, but just in case you haven't read any of the books in this series, you are definitely missing out. I highly recommend U IS FOR UNDERTOW as well as the entire series. (And don't be intimidated by the number of books in this series. You can read as many or as few as you want and you can read them in any order!) There is a obviously reason why Ms. Grafton has had so much success with this series.

Giveaway alert: To celebrate the upcoming release of V IS FOR VENGEANCE, Penguin is graciously giving away three sets of the paperback versions of books Q, R, S, T, U and a copy of V IS FOR VENGEANCE to three lucky winners. To be entered, just leave a comment on all ten blogs participating in Sue Grafton’s Blog Tour (US and Canada only). You can read also read teasers from V IS FOR VENGEANCE at each stop!

And now for sneak preview #10 from the new Kinsey Millhone novel V IS FOR VENGEANCE:

I trotted into the empty lane and scanned the straightaway that shot to the far end of the garage, where a shadowy two-lane ramp curved up to the street level above. The space was illuminated by a series of flat fluorescent fixtures mounted against the low concrete ceiling. There was no sound of running footsteps. Cars entered and departed at regular intervals. Ingress was impeded by the need to push a button and wait for an automated ticket to emerge from the slot. Egress was governed by the need to surrender that same ticket on exiting, pausing long enough for the attendant to check the date-and-time stamp to see if parking fees were due. To my right was the nearest exit, a short upward incline that spilled out onto Chapel Street. The sign posted at the top read WATCH FOR PEDESTRIANS. NO LEFT TURN. As I waited, two cars passed me, one coming down the ramp, the other on its way up. I gave the departing driver a quick look, but she wasn’t the woman I was looking for.

I heard a car engine spark to life. I squinted and tilted my head as I tried to track the sound to its origin. In the artificial light of the garage with its gloomy acres of concrete, it was almost impossible to pinpoint. I turned and looked behind me, where twenty feet away, I caught the wink of red taillights and a white flash of backup lights. A black Mercedes sedan accelerated out of the slot, swung sharply, and careened backward in my direction. The younger woman had an arm over the front seat, zeroing in on me, the car zigzagging as she corrected her aim. The rear of the Mercedes fishtailed and bore down on me with surprising speed. I leaped between two parked cars, banging my shin against the front bumper of one. I stumbled and toppled sideways, extending my right hand in hopes of breaking my fall. I went down on one shoulder and then staggered to my feet again.

The woman rammed the gear into drive and took off with a chirp of her tires. Of necessity, she slowed at the kiosk, handing over her ticket while I limped gamely after her with no hope of catching up. The attendant glanced at her ticket and waved her on, apparently unaware that she’d just tried to run me down. The traffic arm lifted and the woman sent me a satisfied smile as she sailed up the ramp and hung a left at the street.

Wincing, I stopped and leaned over, putting my hands on my knees. I realized belatedly that my right palm was badly scraped and bleeding. My right shin throbbed and I knew I’d be nursing a nasty bruise and a knot along the bone.

I looked up as a man approached and handed me my shoulder bag, eyeing me with concern. “Are you all right? That woman nearly hit you.”

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“You want me to notify mall security? You really ought to file a report.”

I shook my head. “Did you catch the license plate?”

“Well, no, but she was driving a Lincoln Continental. Dark blue, if that helps.”

I said, “Good call. Thanks.”

As soon as he was gone, I pulled myself together and went in search of my car. My shin throbbed and the palm of my hand stung where grit was embedded in the wound. I’d gained precious little for the price I’d paid. So much for the eyewitness account. I’d already identified the black Mercedes. It was the plate number I’d missed. Shit.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.


Kaye said...

This has been a wonderful tour and I've enjoyed reading everyone's post. I can't wait for "V" to come out!


bermudaonion said...

I swear this series has gotten better as it's gone along. Your review is fantastic!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I need to get back to Grafton. And I just love the name Kinsey!

Christine A. said...

I have enjoyed reviewing the last few books in preparation for book V to be released. Great tour and I can't wait to read the newest book.

your1chef at aol dot com

Serena said...

I've had a great time being introduced to Grafton's books, which my mom has been enjoying once again, through this tour. I think I've found a new series to start...which is a woe is me moment since I have so many going on. LOL Thanks for the preview and I love that you feel like you've reconnected with Grafton's mysteries.

I would love to be entered in the giveaway! savvyverseandwit at gmail

Mary Miller said...

Enjoyed your review of U is for Undertow. Since you haven't read any of this series for a while you can now go back and read several without waiting for the release. Hurry up V!! This tour has been great!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Years back, before blogging when I felt I had all the time in the world to read what I wanted, I sat down and read A through...something. O or P maybe, and I read them all in a row. Then kept up with it through T I think. I love Kinsey. I liked it when she was involved, but I also like it when she spends time with her neighbor. I need to chase down U and look forward to V!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy seeing everyone's responses to these. Very cool.

Literary Chanteuse said...

I've enjoyed discovering this series and all of the blogs hosting along the way!


Fiona said...

The Grafton series is a classic.
Una Tiers

kalea_kane said...

I was an avid Sue Grafton reader in the past, and I too fell away a bit, but I always loved Kinsey. I had all the books up to S is for Silence, and then got married, moved and lost them all in the process. My husband picked up U is for Undertow for me recently, because he heard about the new book coming out. Thanks for the fab review.


vmaureen said...

Poor Kinsey--not going to be one of her better birthdays :(. Just two weeks to go.....

Karen Russell said...

I agree with Kaye -- the tour has been a lot of fun, although I confess to trying not to read the previews because it's too hard to get into it and then not be able to read the whole book!

silverneon2000 said...

My Husband has read the books in the past and it would be nice to add more to the collection of the reading.

silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'm really glad Grafton has kept this series going - I love checking in on Kinsey. I'm looking forward to catching up with her over the next couple of months. This tour has reminded me how much I enjoy her escapades!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

DarcyO said...

I love this series and can't wait to see what Kinsey is up to. Thanks for the great post!

dlodden at frontiernet dot net

Poof...books! said...

A little bit of play prevented me from being more timely with this comment but I had to still get in my two cents.

Thanks for being part of the blog tour for Sue Grafton. It was definitely a fun journey and I am so glad to know that what I once found so compelling about your writing is still true today.