Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Kinsey and Me

Summary: In 1982, Sue Grafton introduced us to Kinsey Millhone. Thirty years later, Kinsey is an established international icon and Sue, a number-one bestselling author. To mark this anniversary year, Sue has given us stories that reveal Kinsey’s origins and Sue’s past.

“I've come to believe that Grafton is not only the most talented woman writing crime fiction today but also that, regardless of gender, her Millhone books are among the five or six best series any American has ever written.”—Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Kinsey and Me has two parts: The nine Kinsey stories (1986-93), each a gem of detection; and the And Me stories, written in the decade after Grafton's mother died. Together, they show just how much of Kinsey is a distillation of her creator’s past even as they reveal a child who, free of parental interventions, read everything and roamed everywhere. But the dark side of such freedom was that very parental distance.

The same feisty voice and witty apercus readers fell in love with in A Is for Alibi permeate the Kinsey stories. Those in the And Me section trace a remarkable voyage, from anger to understanding, from pain to forgiveness. They take us into a troubled family, dysfunctional as most families are, each in their own way, but Grafton’s telling is sensitive, delicate, and ultimately, loving. Enriching the way we see Kinsey and know Sue, these stories are deeply affecting. -- Marion Wood Books/Putnam

When I read the description for KINSEY AND ME STORIES by Sue Grafton , I was shocked to learn that this series is thirty years old! I started reading these books from the beginning and I can't possibly be that old! But all kidding aside, I have always had a deep appreciation for Ms. Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series. And when I read her latest two novels last year, I was reminded of her talents. She not only weaves a fantastic mystery, but she's also created one heck of a memorable sleuth.

It was absolutely a given that I wanted to read her new book called KINSEY AND ME which is actually a collection of short stories and somewhat different from her previous novels. KINSEY AND ME is made up of nine stories starring her amateur sleuth Kinsey Millhone and thirteen shorter stories featuring a character called Kit Blue. Naturally, the Kinsey ones are mysteries and have the look and feel of Ms. Grafton's best-selling series; however, the Kit stories are much darker and were written in the decade following the author's loss of her mother. Ms. Grafton states in this book that writing these stories were her way of handling her grief.

Overall, I though KINSEY AND ME was fabulous. I absolutely love Kinsey so it wasn't a surprise that I found the short story mysteries to be fantastic. Ms. Grafton did an outstanding job of converting her typical novel format of storytelling to a much shorter format. She still created intriguing crimes with interesting characters, and she even managed to keep her trademark humor in these stories.

The second half (although a much shorter half!) of KINSEY AND ME was made up of some pretty dark stories about Kit. These stories delved into Kit's relationship with her alcoholic parents as well as the dysfunction she experienced as a child. In addition, the stories showcased the various emotions that Kit (which I took to mean Ms. Grafton) experienced through her mother's various illnesses and eventual death. The character went through stages of anger, grief, sadness, acceptance and eventually forgiveness, and I found these stories to be very honest, heartfelt and emotional.

One thing that made this book extra special to me were the sections that Ms. Grafton wrote directly to the reader. She explained the challenges she faced in writing short stories -- having to create a mystery, introduce a few viable suspects, and solve it in just a few pages while also making the stories "feel" like her series. She also gave a great deal of background on the art of writing mysteries.

However, it was her honesty in discussing the last part of the book, the stories she wrote after the death of her mother, that really affected me. There is absolutely no doubt that we are defined by many of our childhood experiences, and Ms. Grafton is no different. Living with dysfunctional parents most likely created a lot of bitterness and resentment; however, through the years, Ms. Grafton was able to come to terms with the relationship she had with her parents. I have a feeling that these stories were extremely therapeutic for Ms. Grafton to write, but I also suspect that others might find comfort in her words.

While I definitely liked KINSEY AND ME a great deal, I have to say that I most "enjoyed" the Kinsey stories. I adore Kinsey and mysteries and these nine stories were a treat. Having said that, I think I most "appreciated" the Kit stories. I knew Ms. Grafton was a skilled author, but I had no idea that she could write like this! The writing of these stories was excellent and they most definitely packed a powerful punch.

KINSEY AND ME is a unique collection of Ms. Grafton's short stories combined in one book. It's honestly like nothing I've ever read and I highly recommend it!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I love this series, having read them all (well, not sure if I've read the latest). A friend of mine and I were nervously discussing about whether Grafton would even LIVE long enough to get to Z. Which is crazy. She was fairly young when she started writing this series, and has basically spend her entire life writing them.

bermudaonion said...

I really liked this book too! I started the series from the beginning about 20 years ago so I was late discovering it.

Beth F said...

I stopped reading the series somewhere around H, but for no particular reason. I really liked the books I read. I have this on audio and can't wait to read it.