S is for Silence – Sue Grafton

This is the latest but one of Sue Grafton’s “Alphabet” crime series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.). It’s something of a departure for her, for although her heroine private eye, Kinsey Millhone, has investigated “cold” cases before (such as the excellent Q is for Quarry), the books have always been written in the first person and from Kinsey’s own point of view. S is for Silence includes sections written from others’ point of view, and in a past time which Kinsey could not possibly have known about. It’s a device that works well in this book, fleshing out some of the incidents that give life to the characters seen only in their youth or from others’ recollections.

Kinsey is one of the best-written private investigators around. She doesn’t usually muscle in on police cases, and her jobs are realistic. She’s an independent woman, ageing naturally through the series (she’s thirty-seven in this book, set mostly in 1987), sometimes prickly, sometimes critical, but always humane and likeable.

I’d recommend almost any of Sue Grafton’s books (though I haven’t read the first few) – they are interesting, well-written, and not repetitious. It’s not necessary to have read the others to enjoy the latest (though, like any series character, it’s better if you’ve made the journey from A already), and it’s refreshing to read a series which is not sadistic serial-killer fare (Reichs, Cornwell) and whose central character is a tough, practical and realistic woman.

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