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U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

U Is for Undertow

by Sue Grafton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries (21)

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2,6481143,500 (3.82)102
After a recent reference to a kidnapping triggers a flood of memories, unemployed college dropout Michael Sutton hires Kinsey Millhone to locate a four-year-old girl's remains and find the men who killed her.



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Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
For a short time at the beginning of this book, I was wondering why I'd decided to revisit Kinsey Millhone quite so quickly. Then the story drew me in and I found it a compellingly GoodRead.

Kinsey is visited by a young man, Michael Sutton, who claims to have suddenly remembered, after reading a story about a young girl's abduction and subsequent disappearance, of having, at the age of six, seen two men burying "something". He decided it was the body of the young girl who had been abducted, because he felt that the dates matched up. The police had long since given up on that case, and they sent the young man to Kinsey Millhone. She decided his description of the setting was sufficiently detailed that she convinced the police to dig around the site the young man pointed out. All they found was the body of a dog, along with the dog's tag.

Kinsey gets curious about why the dog tag indicated that the dog didn't live anywhere near the back woods in the tony community where its remains were found. So, one thing leads to another and all becomes clear by the end. I won't tell you anything more. You should read the book yourself.

One thing I found interesting is that the book jumped back and forth between Kinsey's mucking about in April, 1988, to the lives of three, not obviously related, people living in 1963, 1967 and also, some of the time in 1988 while Kinsey was following her investigations.

So, we have a disaffected high school student, Jon Corso, whose mother dies from some illness, like old-time consumption, when he was ten, and while his father was away. The father subsequently marries a toxic woman, one bent on total control of all around her. When Jon first met her, he was reminded of a black wasp, ready to sting anything in her way. She banishes the boy to an attic suite over the garage, so as to keep him away from her daughters from a prior marriage.

Then, we have a couple, the Unruhs whose son, Greg, turns into a hippie and parks out in their driveway in a yellow school bus along with a dominating, "go with the flow, dude" nature woman, "Destiny", and her 8-or-so-year-old son, "Sky Dancer". The hippie woman gives birth and a few days later and then packs up Greg and her own son and abandons her new-born daughter, "Rain". Baby Rain had been a pain in the ass because she didn't take to nursing immediately, and so cried a lot from hunger and lack of nurture. The Unruhs adopt Rain, and she subsequently thrives.

Finally, we have a successful banker, Walker McNally who "drinks a bit". He promises his spouse he will lighten up, perhaps even go "sober". But one weekend, while his spouse and child are away, he falls off the wagon and kills a young woman in a car accident.

So what, if any, are the relationships between Michael Sutton, the Unruhs, The hippies in the yellow school bus, Jon Corso, and Walker McNally that tie them together in the story? Well, that's for you all to find out. Hope y'all have as much with that process as I did.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
It has been awhile since I read a Kinsey Millhone story, and I really liked this one. Usually I don't like books that skip back and forth between 2 time periods, but it didn't bother me this time. It was easy to keep track of when each event was taking place. The characters were interesting. I especially enjoyed the hippies, traveling around in their bus. I am happy with just reading a good mystery, but for people who like to get more backstory on Kinsey, there was some of that too. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. ( )
  readingover50 | Jun 11, 2019 |
Nice ending, but the story feels like retread
Kinsey's client thinks he remembers seeing two men digging a hole back when he was six years old, just days after a child's kidnapping that subsequently ended tragically. Maybe it was the kidnappers?
The flashback story harkens back to a hippie-style couple living in a van in the driveway of his parents' house, which was mildly interesting at first. The introduction of a reporter named Alvarez is good for future stories too. But the only really good part is filling in some of Aunt Ginny's history, with old letters and a PI that was hired to look into Ginny's parenting ability.
The flashback storyline removes almost any mystery or tension from the story. You know who the bad guys are way before Kinsey, and the storyline with the reporter holds some initial promise but ultimately goes nowhere. Just a lot of wasted time and space.
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media. ( )
  polywogg | Mar 21, 2019 |
A fairly good example of Grafton's Alphabet series although I spotted the culprits early on. I think she meant the reader to see what was going on before Kinsey and for us to wonder how Kinsey was going to solve this one. My only complaint is that there was a little problem with Sutton's story that wasn't very well resolved.
  hailelib | Mar 3, 2019 |
I like this series, but was disappointed that this one had some gratuitous junk. ( )
  tkcs | Feb 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
With U is for Undertow, Sue Grafton draws closer to the end of the alphabet and, presumably, to the finish of her marvelous mysteries featuring Kinsey Millhone, the smart and scrappy private investigator who helped validate that profession for several generations of female P.I.’s. So has this reliable series lost its addictive appeal? Not at all — though it’s a shock to realize that the stories, set in a California coastal town in the 1980s, now read more like historical narratives than contemporary novels with a slight time lag. But it’s an object lesson in disciplined storytelling to watch Grafton manipulate that time frame to broaden the story and deepen the mystery.
U is for Undertow isn’t much of a mystery. Sure, there’s a baby who was kidnapped and murdered 20 years ago, and a 6-year-old boy, now grown, who may or may not have seen its burial. But what’s wonderful about the book is the sharp-eyed details Grafton packs into its frame.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grafton, SueAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holleman, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaye, JudyReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ordóñe… VictoriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ordóñez, VictoriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Larry Welch, who left us,
steering a course for parts unknown,
and for Pam, who sails on,
navigating her journey over high seas.
Safe passage to you both.
First words
What fascinates me about life is that now and then the past rises up and declares itself.
"When I was a little kid, I was playing in the woods and I came across these two guys digging a hole."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
ISBN 0399154485 is for T Is for Trespass
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It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's thirty-eighth birthday, and she's alone in her office catching up on paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy a beer, but Michael ASutton is twenty-seven, an unemployed college dropout. More than two decades ago, a four-year-old girl disappeared, and a recent newspaper story about her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial and could identify the killers if he sae them again. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the grave and finding the man. It's way more than a long shot, but he's persistent and willing to pay cash up front. Reluctantly, Kinsey agrees to give him one day of her time.

But it isn't long before she discovers Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his story true, or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?

Moving effortlessly between the 1980s and the 1960s, and changing points of view as Kinsey pursues witnesses whose accounts often clash, Grafton builds multiple subplots and creates memorable characters. Gradually, we come to see how everything connects in this twisting, complex, surprise-filled thriller. And as always, at the beating heart of her fiction is Kinsey Millhone, a sharp-tongued, observant loner who never forgets that under the thin veneer of civility is a roiling dark side to the soul.
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