Published thirty one years after A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me, is her first compendium of short stories. It features nine Kinsey Millhone short stories, each a gem of detection, as well as autobiographical pieces written in the decade after Grafton’s mother died. Together, they show just how much Kinsey Millhone is a distillation of her creator’s past, even as they reveal a child who, free of parental discipline, read everything and roamed everywhere. But the dark side of such freedom was that very parental distance . . .
This dazzling and often moving collection displays the depth and range of Grafton’s writing and reminds us of her unique talent as a storyteller.
I wasn’t expecting this book to be quite so personal! Hit me right in the feels… That being said, I’ve been missing my regular new-Kinsey fix (those of you that also read Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series know what I’m talking about!), and this was the perfect cure.
The first, and longest, part of the book contains short stories featuring Sue Grafton’s beloved detective, Kinsey Millhone. I adore the character and was delighted to find some material I hadn’t read. I do think that the characters and world translate better in novel form, but each story was nevertheless entertaining. We also bump into a few familiar faces we’ve come to know and love from the novels, which was great.
Each short mystery in Kinsey & Me was well-plotted, and, while I solved a few of them myself, they often had a twist which surprised me. The scene-setting detail was lovely and really gave each story a strong tie to place; the strong sense of place is one of the main draws for me of the Alphabet series. I particularly loved that we got to meet the man behind Kinsey’s eponymous lock picks at last, and the story based around the old logical deduction puzzle who you meet one man who always lies and one who always tells the truth – that was a fun little spin on the classic mystery.
The shorter, second half of the book is a collection of short stories about the author’s relationship with her parents. This is the part that kicked me in the feels… I loved learning more about one of my favourite authors, but it weren’t half sad! Still, I came away with a newfound admiration for a remarkable woman, and writer. I wish I could have met her! I love Sue Grafton’s panache and the sense of her character that comes through everything she wrote.
The 9 or so stories are poignant, beautifully written little ditties that focus on the relationship between parent and child, where you draw that line between creator and created, the damage we do to one another, what it means to be alive and to love, and how you take those childhood memories into your sense of self as you grow older. They explore the challenges of growing up in a house with addicts, and being a young, unprepared wife and mother. Big themes, which were handled with a raw honesty that you rarely meet in any writer. They left me feeling equally stripped back to the bones.
I seem to be reading a lot of short stories lately (entirely by accident, after having read almost none for years)… Kinsey & Me is in an entirely different vein than anything else I’ve read in the genre. If you like mysteries, I think you’ll love it, and if you’re a fan of the Alphabet series it’s a must read.