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A is for Alibi / B is for Burglar / C is for…

A is for Alibi / B is for Burglar / C is for Corpse (1999)

by Sue Grafton

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380644,045 (3.74)17
A New York Times bestselling author appears for the first time ever in an omnibus edition Old fans and new friends will welcome this collection of Sue Grafton's first three alphabet crime novels: A Is for Alibi, B Is for Burglar, and C is for Corpse. The award-winning mysteries all feature former cop turned detective, Kinsey Milhone, one of the most loved heroines of modern mystery fiction.… (more)
  1. 00
    How to Lose a Client by Becky A. Bartness (readafew)
    readafew: Laugh out loud funny.
  2. 00
    Hasta la Vista, Lola! by Misa Ramirez (readafew)
    readafew: Lola is a a cross between Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum fun read.

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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
(3-star rating is for A is for Alibi) ( )
  TanteLeonie | Jan 17, 2018 |
A is for Alibi -

Thriller and mystery authors typically don’t root themselves in the real world much. Superhuman feats are a dime-a-dozen – I remember reading about one character who did 500 push-ups and 1000 sit-ups – every morning; and another where the ‘hero’ committed countless murders while working with the police. Perhaps these stories are popular because people want to escape their mundane lives, or because they want to imagine themselves all-powerful to help face real world feelings of powerlessness. I don’t begrudge escapism or ink-and-page courage, but sometimes it can be just as empowering to read about a real person facing real problems, to identify with the feelings and choices put to someone who looks and feels ordinary, like me.

Sue Grafton has made a living with the ordinary. In [A is for Alibi], she introduces us to her everyday hero Kinsey Millhone. Kindey is a woman who exercises from fear that she might have to run for her life, who eats and drinks and drives and shaves her legs, who has a landlord and bills. But above all, Kinsey is a woman who doubts herself, not in a way that paralyzes her, but in a natural and relatable way. She’s a private investigator and [A is for Alibi] sets the parameters for that job – insurance, slip-and-fall work that is rarely exciting. And most of the work is done either in Kinsey’s head as she thinks through details trying to find the inconsistency, or through interviewing people and evaluating who is telling the truth, who is lying, and why they’ve lied. Granted, that doesn’t sound as much fun as a running gun battle with endless ammunition and an immunity to lead. But it’s how investigators actually work. Kinsey is problem solver, constantly picking at puzzle pieces. [A is for Alibi]’s puzzle features a woman who was probably wrongfully convicted of poisoning her husband, and suspected of poisoning his mistress. Much like real life, the truth is more complicated.

While the mystery Grafton sets up is a bit transparent, the way she sets Kinsey up to work through the problem is classic gum-shoe. Kinsey reads the files, digs through paper, interviews people, and writes reports – not explosive but very evocative. You might solve the crime before Kinsey does, but you’ll be interested in watching her work through the miasma of conflicting stories and facts. The most compelling aspect, though, is that Grafton gives voice to Kinsey’s inner conflicts, how the investigation taps into how she views herself in the world – how we all live. Life’s events constantly get folded into internal emotion and conflict, and it’s nice to spend some time with a real person like Grafton’s everyday hero. There is a life-threatening climax and Kinsey has to use a gun to escape, but it’s not without personal consequence.

One reason that Grafton is able to shed so much light on her hero is that Kinsey is also the first-person narrator for the book. Part of the reason I picked this book up was to get an example of first person narrative, as I wanted some fresh exposure to the technique before I started writing something in that voice. Grafton wields a sharp instrument in her writing, building depth and breadth to the character with every narrative line. If Kinsey goes for a jog, there is an explanation; when and where and what Kinsey eats or drinks tells us something about her psyche; every detail, as described by Kinsey, is carefully designed to reveal. Many will toss Grafton and her books away as so much pulp, but there’s a depth her for those willing to pay attention.

Bottom Line: Grounded in everyday life, even if the mystery for this kick-off was a little predictable and not much mystery.

4 bones!!!!!

B is for Burglar -

Sophomore entries for series often suffer a bit as the author struggles to legitimize their first publication success without regurgitating it exactly. The idea that a publisher was attracted to your creation and believed in it enough to midwife it into the world is intoxicating. But the ever present doubt about your own ability and talent don’t disappear – it just transforms itself, like any good virus does, to survive. Afflicted with that doubt, authors sometimes strain to push out another book that will both prove that they belong but also highlight something new.

Sue Grafton’s [B is for Burglar] is a perfect example. Very shortly after killing a man, the climax in the previous book, Kinsey Milhone takes on a new case. A woman can’t find her estranged sister. Kinsey tries to track the woman down, learning that there was an arson and murder in the house next to where the sister lived – coincidences usually point toward resolution, in real life and in fictional mysteries.

While the plot for this book was not quite as telegraphed as the plot from the first book, it stretched the boundaries of plausibility quite a bit more. Trying to find a balance between a truthful mystery and one that builds fictional tension is hard. And Grafton is clearly finding her way. Ultimately, the book falls a little flat, as murderer, or murderers, aren’t given neither a realistic motivation nor a believable murder plot. Besides a couple of characters from the buildings where the sister lived, there aren’t as many real people in the story. The best murderers are fully realized, conflicted people – people who we might know and connect with, even if they choose to do something awful. It brings the mystery home for the reader.

That shortfall extends to Kinsey in this book as well. Where her life was vibrant and difficult before, she is skimming along on the surface here. She doesn’t touch on the difficulties over killing a man, even if justified, from the previous story, except in the most superficial ways. Grafton puts her in the beginnings of a relationship that feels forced. The character just doesn’t seem as real, seems more like a plot technique in too many places.

So, why read the book then? Why continue with the story? The answer is because you can feel Grafton’s growing pains and see that she’s so close to breaking through. This book may be a let-down, but it has the promise of better things to come. Kinsey Milhone is too good a character and Grafton has too much talent to give up on either.

Bottom Line: A let down but with promise.

3 ½ bones!!!!!

C is for Corpse -

With [C is for Corpse], Grafton and Kinsey Milhone are back on track, with but one failing. In Grafton’s previous book, she had a difficult time making good on her debut, offering an implausible, shallow murder and mystery plot. But she goes back to what made the first book good – character depth, especially for Kinsey.

Kinsey accepts a job for a young man who suffers from amnesia after an attempt on his life. He senses that he knew something that put his life in danger, but he can’t recall the details. The people in the man’s life think that he is just broken and paranoid, but Kinsey believes him. When her investigation reignites the danger, the man is killed and she finishes the job to honor him.

The book is populated by much more a cast of more completely realized characters, and offers a new, deeper look into Kinsey’s own life. Finally, she has to begin fully confronting the fallout from having killed a man in the first story in the series. And we also get to follow as she helps her landlord and friend who has been hooked by a con artist. The multiple stories and subplots sink deeper into the Kinsey’s psyche and life, cementing a friendship that will pay dividends for many books to come. This is the person who hooked us in [A is for Alibi] and she will be a friend for a long time.

Bottom Line: Grafton is back on track, developing a friendship with Kinsey that readers will be able to carry throughout the series.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Dec 31, 2015 |
A is for Acclamation! B is for a Bang-up job. C is for a Caboodle of fun and suspense. Although it isn't a "soap opera" the stories do build on each other...at least as far as minor characters and Kinsey making allusions to past cases. Hopefully I will have the patience to wait for the "next" letter to become available...
  kaulsu | Jan 15, 2010 |
Alibi-5 stars-Kinsey helps woman solve the crime of her murdered husband for which she was convicted and jailed. Burglar-5 stars-Kinsey investigates the disappearance of a woman's siter and solves an arson and two murders in the process. Corpse-5 stars-Kinsey investigates an accident of a young man who rapidly turns up dead. Also saves her landlord Henry from a money-scheme involving his new girlfriend. ( )
  FMRox | Mar 10, 2009 |
A good introduction to Sue Grafton ( )
  readingrat | Jul 14, 2008 |
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For my father Chip Grafton, who set me on this path
First words
My name is Kinsey Millhone.
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Disambiguation notice
This LT work is an omnibus edition of volumes 1, 2 & 3 in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet Mysteries / Kinsey Millhone" series. Please do not combine it with omnibus editions having different contents, or with any individual title in the series. Thank you.

Abridged audiobook ISBNs 0375402306 and 0739332244
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