X by Sue Grafton (3 out of 5)

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I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. I will not stop reading it until she stops writing them. They do vary in the scope of how much I enjoy them, though. She was rocking until the letter O, and then it was up and down. You can still count on her books for fun, but it seems the older that Kinsey gets, the less fun she is. And that sucks! I’m a fan of Kinsey the feisty who sees nothing wrong with eating oddball sandwich combinations and sleeping on Wonder Woman sheets. Where have you gone, Kinsey Millhone? Where did the fun go? I can always count on Rosie and William, or Henry, for a laugh. Not in this installment. I think the closer to the alphabet winding down, the more serious my favorite bunch of mystery characters get. I wish there was some way to combine the serious and the silly. Maybe that’s why I need to quit screwing around and write one.

This book finds Kinsey contacted by Ruthie, Pete Wolinsky’s widow. She’s been contacted by the IRS for an audit and she asks Kinsey to go through a box of Pete’s things, in the hope that she can find a secret compartment that Pete may have had, or any info, for that matter. Kinsey finds a secret alright- a separate area with a bible, a mailing envelope, and things belonging to a mysterious woman. She also finds a piece of paper with numerical codes, which the ever helpful puzzle addict Henry helps her crack.

She also has to find the current address of a young man who just got out of the pokey. Not a huge deal it would seem, until she’s paid for the information she provides, with marked one hundred dollar bills. Kinsey is none too pleased to be told of this, and heads out to figure out what her client is trying to pull.

The last mystery she’s involved in revolves around her and Henry’s new neighbors, the mysterious and often annoying Shellenbachers (I kept reading it as Redenbachers..which made me crave popcorn), Edna and Joseph. Henry gets caught up in the efforts to save on water, in accordance with the drought conditions that California is undergoing currently. (I like that Grafton threw this into the story, even if it does take place in the late 80’s), and an investigation shows that someone is pillaging his water supply. This is where things start to close in on the annoying neighbors. Good riddance, I said! Edna is one of the most annoying, self-righteous, cloying dying air fresheners I’ve read in narrative in a long ass time. That’s just a small side note, but it does throw Henry and Kinsey’s moods down the shitter for most of the book, which is what I mean when I saw the serious takes over and the silly isn’t really addressed. I missed also not seeing much of William and Rosie, my favorite barkeeps. I did like the cameo by Cheney, one of my favorite of Kinsey’s many associates through the years. But there was a lot of happy-go-lucky familiarity and camaraderie missing throughout this one that made it all work and no play. And that makes Kinsey and the reader a little less happy.

This one really took awhile to figure out, and the plot middles along somewhat. The past couple, I really enjoyed. I can’t wait to see my regular customer “The Marlboro Man” (yes, even the bookstore customers have nicknames) tomorrow to see if he felt the same. This one has so many intersecting stories and the main one really takes off into multiple directions with multiple ex-wives, strange security detail explanations, strange real estate lingo, and a whole hell of a lot of Kinsey ruminating on how much money she has in the bank (at least five separate mentions, no joke). Who cares? It really wasn’t central to the plot that much! Grafton lost me a bit with this one. I finished it and thought… well, the neighbors were trouble from the first mention of Kinsey’s thoughts on them, and they believed like you would believe crooked neighbors would act. So there was no real element of surprise there. I figured out what the connection between the six women Pete listed on the graph before the final reveal was set in place in the last chapter..so no real surprises there. You kind of know whom the bad guy is immediately, and that REALLY sucks you out of the fun of it. The tone was taking its sweet time in this book, and it’s hard to give it more than 3 stars. I hope the next letter is back to its usual surefire winning formula.

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~ by generationgbooks on September 7, 2015.

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