G is for Grafton
Natalie Hevener Kaufman
& Carol McGinnis Kay
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Buy *G is for Grafton* online G is for Grafton
Natalie Hevener Kaufman
& Carol McGinnis Kay
Henry Holt & Company
466 pages
Copyright 1997
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Even if you never thought you'd be remotely interested in mystery maven Sue Grafton's alphabet series, the enthusiasm that co-authors Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay bring to "G" is for Grafton will infect you. A sort of biography of fictional private detective Kinsey Millhone, "G" is for Grafton also opens a window onto Sue Grafton's private vistas, revealing fascinating tidbits about the creative processes employed by one of today's most bankable genre writers.

Curled Up With a Good BookKaufman and Kay examine the intrepid Kinsey detail by loving detail, dividing the book into sections like "Kinsey's Personality" and "Kinsey at Work." Her actions and reactions from "A" is for Alibi through "O" is for Outlaw, placed in the context of her milieu, Santa Teresa (a twin tribute to the city of Santa Barbara and to mystery giant Ross Macdonald), and of her life's history, help her take on the shape of a fully fleshed human being. That is the core of Grafton's triumph: she has made a wholly believable, likable, flawed and driven character who attracts legions of fans to her flame.

Like any good (and entertaining) biography, "G" is for Grafton is part dish, part pop-psychology. We get the goods on Kinsey's two failed marriages; we also get a determined analysis of the effect of Kinsey witnessing the deaths of her parents in an automobile wreck at the tender age of five. Raised by a reserved spinster aunt, Kinsey's need for justice and order in her world draw her to police work and from their to private detection. Timelines and personality profiles bring the tomboyish Kinsey into sharper focus, as do choice illuminating quotes:

  • (on interior design) "A painting of Jesus hung on the wall at the foot of the bed. He had his palms open, eyes lifted toward heaven -- pained, no doubt, by Ori's home decorating taste."
  • (on celibacy) "I lay there, trying to think back to when I'd last had sex. I couldn't even remember, which was really worrisome. I fell asleep wondering if there was a cause-and-effect relationship between memory loss and abstinence."
  • (on the pleasures of looking at the ocean) "For one thing, I find it therapeutic to consider all the creatures not devouring me at any given moment."

Stubborn, tough, and scared of dogs, Kinsey Millhone brings out the mothering instinct in her closest fictional friends and a tenacious loyalty in the readers who've been with her from the beginning or who have joined her along the journey. "G" is for Grafton, written by fans for fans, is enough to convince those readers who haven't yet made Kinsey's acquaintance to jump headlong into Grafton's ABCs.

© 2000 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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