Book Review: X by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #24)

"In hindsight, I marvel at how clueless I was . . .
What I ask myself even now is whether I should have picked up the truth any faster than I did,
which is to say not fast enough . . ."

When a glamorous red head wishes to locate the son she put up for adoption thirty-two years ago, it seems like an easy two hundred bucks for P. I. Kinsey Millhone. But when a cop tells her she was paid with marked bills, and Kinsey's client is nowhere to be found, it becomes apparent this mystery woman has something to hide. Riled, Kinsey won't stop until she's found out who fooled her and why.

Meanwhile, the widow of the recently murdered P. I. - and Kinsey's old friend - Pete Wolinsky, needs help with her IRS audit. This seemingly innocuous task takes a treacherous turn when Kinsey finds a coded list amongst her friend's files. It soon leads her to an unhinged man with a catalogue of ruined lives left in his wake. And despite the devastation, there isn't a single conviction to his name. It seems this sociopath knows exactly how to cause chaos without leaving a trace. As Kinsey delves deeper into the investigation she quickly becomes the next target of this tormentor. But can Kinsey prove her case against him before she becomes the next victim?"

It’s been some time since I read a Kinsey Millhone mystery (I just don’t get to the library these days) but I’ve long been a fan of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series starring hard-boiled private investigator Kinsey Millhone so, when I was invited to review this one I didn’t hesitate to say yes because for me, a new Kinsey Millhone mystery is always a source of comfort in that I know exactly what I’m getting in terms of both Ms Grafton’s writing and Kinsey’s character – it’s almost like reuniting with an old friend. 

Not much has changed in Kinsey’s life. It’s still the late 80’s (1989 to be exact) in Santa Teresa, California - mobile phones haven’t yet been invented and neither for that matter are computers much in use, allowing her to continue using her index cards to organise her thoughts; Henry Pitts’ converted garage apartment is still her home; her office is in the same location it’s been for a while; her perspective on love and relationships definitely hasn’t altered; and her trusty Smith Corona still gets a work-out - oh, but hang on, she does have a “new” car.

As far as the reader is concerned, nothing appears to be amiss from the Prologue – actually, as far as I was concerned, it was going to be pretty cut and dried – intercept the would-be art thief who has money on their mind. Not so for Kinsey who, it seems, is presented with a bit of a doozy when she is contacted by a woman trying to locate the son whom she gave up for adoption many years before who has recently been released from prison for armed robbery – all for the low fee of two hundred dollars!

Kinsey thinks she’s got in the bag – find the adopted son and dust her hands of the case – until the police knock on her door. Add to this the fact that she gets a call from an old deceased friend’s wife who’s trying to locate some paperwork to sort out her tax affairs as well as Henry’s grumblings about his water bill which, for some mysterious reason, he doesn’t seem to be able to reduce – no matter what drought-relief measures he tries to introduce. When she starts digging (pardon the pun – yes, there’s some serious digging going on here), she discovers that she’s been had by the woman who hired her (who doesn’t exist) and uncovers a lot more than she bargained for when she finds herself within the sights of a serial killer.

Even though her time zone hasn’t met the electronic age this in no way impacts on our enjoyment of Kinsey’s cases as we sit in our armchairs and bear witness to her old-fashioned but tried and trusted methods of sleuthing – using telephone directories, the resources available at her local library, staking out a suspect with just a camp chair, binoculars, a roll of toilet paper and a sandwich, much needed street-smarts and lots of legwork. She’s keen, determined, resourceful and full of her usual wit and one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about her is her sense of morality and relentless pursuit of justice.

Sue Grafton has produced a wonderful heroine in Kinsey and I’m certainly going to miss possibly one of the greater detectives of our time when the series comes to an end.

As usual Ms Grafton gives this hard-boiled detective and those who choose to follow her, a slow-burn of a mystery and I have no doubt that devoted fans will enjoy this third-last instalment in the Alphabet Series.

For those of you who haven’t yet met her, do yourself a favour and ferret out this series because Kinsey Millhone is set to earn her place in the detective hall of fame.

I wish to thank Pan MacMillan Australia for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and providing me with an uncorrected proof copy for review.

About the Author

Sue Grafton has become one of the most popular female writers, both in the UK and in the US, selling over twelve million copies worldwide.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1940, her father is the mystery writer C.W. Grafton, whose own work gave his daughter the initial inspiration to write.

She began her career as a TV scriptwriter before Kinsey Millhone and the "alphabet" series took off and plans to take Kinsey all the way through the alphabet to Z.

Sue is married to Steven Humphrey and lives and writes in Montecito, California and Louisville, Kentucky.

She is currently working on her next Kinsey Millhone novel.


  1. I really enjoyed this latest outing with Kinsey as well. I think I said in my review that Grafton's done a great job of keeping Kinsey strong and engaging through 24 novels - which is no easy feat!


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