Review: W IS FOR WASTED by Sue Grafton

WIsForWastedGraftonSue21190_fSeries heroine Kinsey Millhone, who has only aged about 6 years to my 30 since we first met in the mid 1980’s, is contacted by her local Coroner’s Office because they have the unidentified body of a homeless man who was carrying her name and phone number in his pocket. Might she be able to identify him? She cannot but, due to a lack of clients in her private detective business at the time, decides to investigate a little. Which leads to getting to know some homeless people, eventually identifying the body, making a connection to the death of a local private investigator a few months earlier and meeting some more of her extended family.

If a suspenseful and/or poignant story of academic greed and wasted lives ever existed in Grafton’s mind it is lost within the nearly 500 pages of minutiae the finished publication became. The story here is unnecessarily complicated with insignificant details and there seems to be a larger than normal amount of the usual filler (fast food meals being described in more detail than anyone could possibly be happy with, detailed depictions of driving routes taken and so on). There’s also just a lot of unnecessary blather. For example at one point Kinsey’s car gets a flat tyre which results in a long interaction with two dull but helpful tourists she meets at (yet another) fast food restaurant and is ultimately proven to be due to mildly malicious intent. But this incident adds nothing to the story or any character’s development and the whole episode is just…a waste of time. It is not an isolated incident.

I waded through W IS FOR WASTED with the kind of dogged determination Kinsey herself might use when cleaning her tiny apartment or finishing some other dull but worthy task and only because I am heavily invested in seeing this particular series through to the bitter end. If you are not similarly cursed by having your entire adult reading life coincide with the publication of these novels I wouldn’t recommend this one. If you are a series stalwart I presume nothing I say will stop you from reading this instalment, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Since starting the blog I’ve read T is for Trespass, U is for Undertow (my favourite of these recent instalments) and V is for Vengeance.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Publisher Mantle [2013]
ISBN 9780230769151
Length 486 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #23 in the alphabet series

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9 Responses to Review: W IS FOR WASTED by Sue Grafton

  1. Don Weston says:

    Bernadette,
    Thank you. I thought it was only me. After giving Sue Grafton a pass for several years, last week I decided to read R is for Rocket and quickly discovered why I quit reading her. I made is three and a half chapters through descriptions of everything with little or no action.
    I’ve always been told as a writer, something must happen in the first chapter–usually a murder, but at least some foreshadowing of a problem or something to come. I guess once you’ve made it you can go through the motions and ignore all of the rules and your readers.
    I thought maybe I’m just one of those people who don’t like to read detailed descriptions of meals, roads, houses (exterior and interior), and everything else she could think of to describe.
    Five hundred pages is just ridiculous for a mystery and from what you’ve described Ms Grafton has broken another cardinal rule of writing–introducing a character or a scene that doesn’t move the story along.
    I have to admit a guilty pleasure. I read a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books–well most of them actually. I like humor and it doesn’t matter that the plots are rehashed from book to book. There’s always something happening and I always laugh out loud at some of her situations. It’s perfect when you want an enjoyable read and don’t want to think to much.
    Thanks for your reviews.

    Don Weston, Author of the Billie Bly series

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    • I’ve certainly read books that do successfully break all those rules Don but by and large they’re rules for a reason. But I suppose Grafton is in the enviable position of having her reader base well and truly established so she can get away with things that new authors cannot.

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  2. Bernadette – I will consider myself duly warned. This is one of those examples of stories that are much longer than they need to be. Grafton can tell an excellent story; I’ve read them. I wonder what it is about today’s publishing landscape that seems to require really long books. There are some that I’ve read that are really worth the number of pages. But a lot of them could do with a good editing. But don’t get me started on that rant. Please.

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  3. Kathy D. says:

    I’m so glad I’m forewarned about this book. I’ll take your word for it. I like this series when I need a weekend off and want to escape into California’s environs for a fairly simple story and enjoyable characters.
    But what the heck is going on with publishers today? These details would have me wringing my hands and climbing the walls. I’d want to edit them right off the pages.
    Why are mysteries being turned into doorstops? What is the value to publishers? One
    thing I’d point out is that they can charge a hefty price for a hardcover book, even a paperback.
    But how many readers can stand this minutae — and over fast food and changing a tire? Groan.
    I’m disappointed in the writer and the publisher. I haven’t read all of the books in the series but have read the last several, and aimed to keep going through “z.” But I don’t think I can
    read 500 pages with so many unnecessary details. I don’t have the time nor the patience.
    And, with aging eyesight, a 500-page read has to be superb to warrant my commitment to it.

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    • I suspect the value to publishers Kathy is that they don’t need to pay editors! And for an author like Grafton – whose reader base is made up of people who are going to buy whatever she publishes regardless of its quality – this is a good business decision?

      I definitely don’t think this particular 500-page tome is worth the damage to your eyesight 🙂

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  4. How disappointing! I have this one on my TBR, but will consider myself warned. Thanks for an honest review.

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    • I’ll be curious to see what other series fans think Moira…I think what it boils down to is that I have matured – both as a reader and as a human being – while Kinsey is stuck in a time warp so that neither she nor the adventures she stars in have changed much at all. It’s not the same as reading other historical fiction nor is it the same as reading a book written in the 1980’s. I think Grafton made a rod for her own back

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  5. Sarah says:

    Oh no. I love this series. I’ll still read the book but, as Moira says, thanks for the warning.

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