Title: T is for Trespass
Author: Sue Grafton
Publisher: Pan Books [originally 2007, this edition 2008]
Despite my best intentions to write a straight-forward review this became more of a reflection on the alphabet series and my experiences with it. My apologies for the self-indulgence.
Sue Grafton’s alphabet books are one of only two crime fiction series I have read completely, in order, roughly at the time of their release (Sara Paretsky’s V I Warshawski novels being the other series). I discovered them both when I was in my teens and looking for a grown-up version of the Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew books I’d loved as a kid.
For those who’ve never met her Kinsey Millhone is the star of this series and is a private investigator in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California. She’s in her late thirties, lives alone in a converted garage owned by her 88-year old neighbour Henry and spends some of her spare time socialising at a local bar where she eats whatever Hungarian meal the owner, Rosie, decides she should have, and chats with Rosie and her new husband (Henry’s hypochondriac brother William). Kinsey can be relied upon to doggedly progress through whatever investigations she’s employed to undertake and sometimes, as with this book, she becomes embroiled in cases where her drive to sort out the problem is a moral one rather than financial. Either way Kinsey does not give up. Ever. In T is for Trespass we see Kinsey investigating a potential insurance fraud at the same time as she steps in when she suspects that one of her neighbours might be the victim of elder abuse. As always happens in Kinsey Millhone novels there’s a fair amount of detail about the mundane processes involved in private investigation and while this can be interesting it’s getting a little repetitive by now. Especially as this book has twice the number of pages as the first one (released in 1983) but, in my humble opinion, does not have twice as much story (so the bulk is, by and large, more mundane details and more eating of pimento sandwiches).
Despite appearing in a total of 20 books time has moved very slowly for Kinsey Millhone. A is for Alibi was a contemporary novel but this latest book takes place in the few weeks either side of New Year 1988 which makes it, for want of another term, historical. Grafton outlines the reasons for this in a 1999 interview. Transitioning between these two types of writing (contemporary and historical) within the one series hasn’t always been successful and there have been occasions when I’ve really noticed that she’s included a reference to some trend or event only due to the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but, to be fair, I didn’t notice any specific incidents in this particular book.
The story in this book is a good one. The last 150 pages or so had me glued in a way that I haven’t been since the middle of the alphabet. And, as always, the intricate plot is well executed and credible, especially if you’re familiar with Kinsey and Henry who behaved in ways that you and I might not but that they definitely would do. Trust me, I’ve known these people for 26 years now. Frankly I could have done without the ‘filler’ content but a memo seems to have gone out to all crime fiction authors everywhere that more is better because it’s becoming impossible to find a book with less than 400 pages I guess I have to get used to it.
As my reading tastes have matured and I’ve discovered dozens of new authors I’ve stopped reading lots of my former favourites. But while it’s often occurred to me that I might not read the next Kinsey book I always seem to end up with it in my hands at some stage and, at least in this instance, I’ve thoroughly enjoying reacquainting myself with her. I think my fondness for Kinsey stems from several factors including the fact I discovered her when I was young and impressionable. Also, over the years I’ve spent more time with her than I have with some real people I know. I have family living in Los Angeles and there’s a limit to how many times a girl can go to Disneyland so whenever I’m visiting and get bored with LA I pinch my brother’s car and take personal tours of sites mentioned in the books. While Santa Teresa is fictional, references to real place the town to the north of Los Angeles and south of San Francisco and Kinsey has traversed most of the state at some point or other. And I’ve had great fun following in her footsteps over the years.
I really can’t make an objective recommendation to people who’ve never read one of this series before but if you’re an old friend of Kinsey’s too I think you’d enjoy this outing.
My rating (4.5/5) (but that’s a very subjective score based on the memories this brought back as well as the enjoyment of the current book)