Regular readers all know what a fan I am of mystery writer Sue Grafton and her "alphabet series" of novels featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Simply stated, I love the series, and I downloaded the latest installment, "X", the day it first became available late last month.
So it is with a bit of reluctance that I write this to say that this twenty-fourth installment in the adventures of Kinsey Millhone came as disappointment to me. Unlike many novels with series characters, Grafton's books had not resorted to formula or became stale as the series went on and on. If anything, the more recent stories in the series (and you can find them by just typing "Sue Grafton" into the search box at the upper left corner of this page), with the novels for T, U, V, and W being among the very best of the series. Perhaps it was just me (had a lot of things going on while I was reading this one), but I had a hard time getting into this one.
In "X", Kinsey gets involved in three separate story lines, I won't even call them cases, because she was only hired and paid for one of them. As is often the case, one of these threads takes Kinsey back over twenty years in time, and another involves a pain-in-the-rear new neighbor that seems fairly innocuous at the start. To me, it just seemed like there were too many threads in this particular story, and I had a tough time staying with it. For all of that, however, the last seventy or so pages of the book, when the story lines were getting wrapped up, were a very entertaining read. Two of the stories came together and were resolved more or less satisfactorily. The third was left open, and who knows if Grafton has it in her mind to bring this one particular villain back in a future story. Grafton/Millhone also deliver some trenchant observations about the continuum on which criminals exist and the justice system operates.
At the end of the day, I will give "X" and "C" grade, better than a lot of books out there, but not up to the higher standards of the series, but Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone remain among my favorite authors and fictional characters. It is sad to think that this series will come to an end with books Y and Z, sometime before the end of this decade, as Grafton has promised.