Saturday, November 5, 2016

Review of "X" by Sue Grafton

As this 24th book in the series opens private detective Kinsey Milhone has money in the bank (for a change) and time on her hands. So when Ruthie Wolinksy - widow of Kinsey's deceased colleague Pete Wolinksy - is preparing for a tax audit, Kinsey agrees to look through Pete's old files for pertinent documents. Instead, Kinsey finds two surprising things. One is a coded document that turns out to be a list containing six women's names. At least some of the women have a connection to an obnoxious man named Ned Lowe, who has a history of stalking and mistreating his old girlfriends and wives. Another is a three-decades-old manila envelope containing mementos from Lowe's first wife, meant for his now grown daughter.

Kinsey had disdained Pete Wolinsky when he was alive, thinking of him as a dishonest rogue. So when Kinsey learns that Pete had the list and envelope because he was trying to do good things, she decides to carry on with his inquiries. This isn't smooth sailing, though, because nasty Ned Lowe makes every attempt to derail Kinsey's investigation and keep her away from his daughter.

Meanwhile Kinsey takes on another case. Wealthy fashionista Hallie Bettancourt asks Kinsey to locate the son she gave up for adoption thirty years ago. The man, Christian Satterfield, was in prison for bank robbery and has just been paroled. Because Kinsey thinks the job will be quick and easy she accepts the modest payment of two hundred dollars in cash. Kinsey then performs a spot of surveillance, finds Christian's address, and sends it to Hallie.

As it turns out, Hallie Bettancourt's entire persona is false. Her name isn't Hallie, she isn't Christian's mother, and the cash payment she gave Kinsey is 'marked' - part of a $25,000 ransom paid to retrieve a stolen painting a couple of years before. So Kinsey decides to find out what the unknown woman actually wants with the ex-convict. Could she be planning a robbery?

Kinsey also has one other concern. An elderly couple, Edna and Joseph Shallenbarger, have recently moved next door to Kinsey's landlord, nonagenarian Henry Pitts. Joseph is wheelchair-bound and Edna is a sly old bird who constantly wangles Henry into helping her, buying her groceries, taking her to the store and the dentist and so on. Kinsey resents the Shallenbargers taking advantage of Henry. In additiion - as it turns out - the old couple are even worse neighbors than Kinsey feared.

In the course of her inquiries Kinsey makes a lot of phone calls, follows people, conducts interviews, looks up documents, meets a millionaire, writes up her index cards, and so on. She also spends some time dining in her friend Rosie's bar, making peanut butter and pickle sandwiches at home, and talking with old friends and acquaintances.

I enjoy this series and like visiting with the familiar characters. For me, though, the plot in this book is not riveting. Kinsey's cases seem unfocused, and her investigative procedures are a little slow and rambling. This contrasts with previous books where Kinsey's investigations were driven and fast-paced.

Still, I recommend this book to Sue Grafton fans. A flawed Kinsey Milhone story is better
than none. :)

Rating: 3 stars


  1. I enjoyed her books in the beginning but after the midpoint of the alphabet, it seemed the series began to lag & for me had run its course.

    1. I agree some books in the series are a bit weak but I still like it. I like the characters, especially Kinsey, Henry, and Rosie.