"My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I am thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind."
These are the first words of "A" is for Alibi, the first installment of the Kinsey Millhone Series by Sue Grafton.
Kinsey is a quirky, no-nonsense gal who lives in a converted garage apartment and drives a VW bug. Though she may sound boring, you'll soon see that the life of this p.i. is anything but ordinary.
It all starts when Nikki Fife walks through the door. She was convicted of murdering her husband, prominent lawyer Laurence Fife, eight years earlier. After the usual greeting and conversation, she hands over an expense check for $5,000 and asks Kinsey to find the real killer of her late husband.
It turns out that Laurence Fife had quite the appetite for the ladies. He left his first wife, Gwen, for Nikki. Then he left Nikki as well for greener pastures. Also quite intriguing is the mysterious death of Laurence's business acquaintance, Libby Glass. Both died from ingesting oleander disguised in capsule form and switched with other medication. Coincidence? Probably not, but Laurence died in Santa Teresa and Libby was down in Los Angeles. How do you explain that?
So not only does Kinsey have to figure out who really killed Laurence Fife, she has to find out how that murder is connected to that of Libby Glass.
The investigation takes Kinsey from picturesque Santa Teresa, down to the Salton Sea, out to Las Vegas and back to Los Angeles. Each visit gathers more suspects and gets closer to the truth.
Unfortunately, someone else knows Kinsey is on the case and there is another mysterious death. Her list of suspects is shrinking, because someone is killing them. Can she find out who really killed Laurence Fife before anyone else dies? And with someone on her tail, will she live to solve another case?
Of course she will! "A" is for Alibi is the first installment in Sue Grafton's best selling series. Originally released in 1982, some of the events may be dated, but Kinsey is timeless. Grafton is to be praised for creating a smart, funny female lead character that is not beautiful, not rich and not perfect. She is down to earth and refreshingly human.
Grafton's setting choice is a good one also. The series is based in fictitious Santa Teresa, California, which is heavily based on the actual Santa Barbara coastal town.
Though this book is the first in the series, readers can actually read the books out of order. Grafton does a great job providing background of Kinsey's career, residence, and contacts at the beginning of each installment.
The Kinsey Millhone series could be considered light reading, but that doesn't deter from the character or the novels. The stories are interesting and entertaining. There are no exploding buildings and crazy car chases, like those preferred in today's action movies. However, there is a character with a brain and a sense of humor and I find that to be more satisfying.
That being said, I recommend "A" is for Alibi and the entire Kinsey Millhone series. Women will probably relate to the female character more than men might, but all will enjoy her. This book would make a great gift to anyone who enjoys fiction. In fact, treat yourself and check out the book that started it all for Sue Grafton. Enjoy!