A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

(Kinsey MilLhone, #1)

A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

Eight years ago, Nikki Fife was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she's out on parole and needs Kinsey's help to find the real killer.

If there's one thing that makes Kinsey feel alive, it's playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer―and sharper―than she imagined.

“My own mystery, unplumed, undetected, was sorted into files that were neatly labeled but really didn't say much.”

Kinsey Millhone, an average detective with a conscience and a relaxed lifestyle, lands a whopper of a case to open this first of many, many books. Her client's wishes? To find out who really killed her husband AFTER she's released from prison for doing the deed.

Mildly paced with other mediocre tension, the book mainly wins through the point of view of the detective. She's a down-to-earth, relatable protagonist. Divorced and eager to help solve crimes for the underdog, even if she doesn't go to those cases intentionally, her thorough skills show a mystery where the clues are solved by actual logical work and not just nifty clue falling into her lap like most mysteries do. We get to go through random phone calls, ponderings of a next step, legwork, and misleading interviews. Good old detective classics.

While Kinsey is likable, she's not a detective I fell in love with. You could enter any other detective and get this technique and outcome. The writing style puts in enjoyable humor in serious situations, but it's mainly kept to the point and focused on the story at hand. The ending wasn't a surprise because it had been bouncing in the back of my head as a possibility, but it still dealt an ending that was the shine of the story. I won't be forgetting the twist of who it was and how no one is safe from being the big bad villain.

I'd have liked to have a follow-up and longer ending that shows the after-effects, especially Nikki learning what really went down that fateful night years ago, but oh well. A good mystery for those who did modern golden-age detectives.

   Book Quotes:

“Except for cases that clearly involve a homicidal maniac, the police like to believe murders are committed by those we know and love, and most of the time they're right - a chilling thought when you sit down to dinner with a family of five. All those potential killers passing their plates.”

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