At this point I’ve read 22 of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone novels, starting with A is for Alibi and continuing on all the way through V is for Vengeance. This may sound extreme, but at Sue Grafton’s pace it isn’t: 22 books in 29 years is quite reasonable, both for her as a writer and for me as a reader. Obviously I like these novels a lot, or I wouldn’t keep reading them.
Naturally I expected W next, since V had come out back in 2011, so it was past time for W (W is for Bush, perhaps?). But then came a break in the series: Kinsey and Me, not a novel but a collection of two essays and 22 short stories. The first three quarters of the book contain an interesting introductory essay about the Millhone series —providing useful context for readers who want to step outside of the fictional world — and then nine Kinsey Millhone stories, some of which I had read in earlier incarnations, such as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Although the short-story format is not the best for Grafton and similar mystery writers, these stories are still enjoyable for Kinsey fans. Then comes an entr’acte, which tells us a lot more about Grafton’s own background and Kinsey’s back story. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities between the two; Grafton, in fact, explicitly says that Kinsey Millhone represents a fictionalized version of the author, or perhaps of the author-as-she-would-like-to-be.
After the entr’acte, squeezed into the last quarter of the book are 13 very short stories about Kit Blue, an even more thinly disguised version of the author herself. These stories feel more like therapy than fiction: each is a depressing vignette that explores one issue in Grafton’s past. Feel free to skip them if you don’t like that sort of thing.
So, does all this make a coherent book, a story? Surprisingly it does. But it takes a little work on the reader’s part to glue it all together: essays by the author in her own voice, fiction stories about the familiar Kinsey Millhone, and slightly fictionalized stories about Kit Blue/Sue Grafton, all of these combine to present different facets of the same story.