Written by Sue Grafton – Best known for her ‘Alphabet’ series of crime novels featuring feisty female private eye Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton will be a name familiar to many crime fiction followers. It’s more than 30 years since we were introduced to Kinsey, and Grafton has reached the letter V in her alphabet. Time for a break from the norm, perhaps?
To keep her loyal fans happy, Grafton has produced this compilation. The first part of the book features Kinsey, in nine short stories written between 1986 and 1991. Some appeared in magazines and anthologies – and they were first published by Grafton’s husband through his company, Bench Press, in a limited edition for family and friends. This is the first time they’ve been published in the UK.
The latter part of the book comprises short autobiographical pieces written in the decade after Grafton’s mother died. They recount the life of a troubled family living in the shadow of alcoholism and feature Kit Blue as a stand-in for the young Grafton. Written following the death of her mother on the day Grafton herself turned 20, they were her way of coming to terms with her grief, and perhaps would have been better kept to herself.
So, fact and fiction, chalk and cheese – which made for difficult reading in every sense. I was uncomfortable with both content and context of this compendium of work and found it really hard going. In truth, I am not much of a short story fan, and the Kinsey Millhone collection did little to alter my opinion. Yes, they offered some clever twists and neat denouements, but it was plain to see that they had been written at different times and for different publications and were never intended to be seen together in one place.
I found the repetition of information about Kinsey really annoying – details about her age, job, car and marital status was to be found in the opening few paragraphs of virtually every story. Several even started in a very similar manner. I enjoyed Groundhog Day the movie, but this felt like Groundhog Day, the collection of short stories. Kinsey is great to spend time with in a full-blown novel, but I found her company increasingly irritating in short bursts.
Part two of the book is an honest, emotional portrait of a woman coming to terms with the death of her alcoholic mother, but in truth I felt it sat badly with part one and the two had little to link them other than the fact that they were written by the same person. As a whole, Kinsey and Me came across as self-indulgent and disconnected and ultimately dissatisfying.
If you want to make Kinsey Millhone’s acquaintance, then I recommend you take a look at the Alphabet series and leave Kinsey and Me to the die-hard Sue Grafton fans. A disappointing collection which contains little to appeal to the casual reader.
CFL Rating: 2 Stars