Plot or Premise
The book is a collection of two sets of stories — the first set is part of the Kinsey Millhone series and set throughout the Alphabet series in time; the second set is about Kit Blue.
What I Liked
The first part, with Kinsey Millhone, includes an introduction about how she created Kinsey (4/5), nine shortstories, and a conclusion about the history of the genre of the hard-boiled PI (3/5). The shortstories are fun to read, but there isn’t much “Kinsey” in them. Too little time to dwell, mostly focused on “wham bam, here’s a clue, here’s a solution”. One I rate at 4/5, five more at 3/5, and another three that aren’t very good at all.
- Between the Sheets — Great opening where woman shows up to confess to murder she hasn’t reported yet, and when she goes back, the body is gone (3/5);
- Long Gone — Missing wife, lots of kids, clues are pretty obvious (3/5);
- The Parker Shotgun — Cool premise, quick solution, fair with the clues (4/5);
- Non Sung Smoke — Find a one-night stand, have him get killed, throw in some drugs (3/5);
- Full Circle — Cute ending to a simple case of who killed a young woman in a horrific car accident that Kinsey witnessed (3/5); and,
- A Little Missionary Work — Two celebrities ask for Kinsey’s help with a fake kidnapping, but Kinsey reverses the con in the end (3/5).
The second part includes an introduction about Grafton’s not-so-idyllic early life, and how “Kit Blue” is a younger version of herself (3/5). The remaining thirteen stories work quite well as a collection of slices of Kit’s life, although individually I rate one as 5/5, five as 4/5, and three as 3/5, with another four below the line:
- That’s Not An Easy Way To Go — Kit realizing she’s become the mother to her alcoholic mother (4/5);
- Lost People — Kit reflecting on her alcoholic parents, displaced from their own lives (3/5);
- Clue — Slice of life with mother visiting and Kit’s relief when she leaves (3/5);
- Night Visit, Corridor A — Kit visiting mother in hospital (4/5);
- April 24, 1960 — Kit dealing with news of her mother’s death on Kit’s birthday, and being irritated by her husband trying to comfort her (4/5);
- The Closet — Kit cleaning out her mother’s closet after she’s gone and trying to figure out what it represents, if anything (4/5);
- Maple Hill — Kit walking through an empty house saying goodbye to all of it (5/5);
- Jessie — a housewoman talking about Kit’s mother (4/5); and,
- A Letter From My Father — Kit reading a letter and sharing her own views of their life together (3/5).
What I Didn’t Like
Three of the Kinsey stories aren’t great:
- Falling Off The Roof — A mystery book club with murder on its mind (1/5);
- A Poison That Leaves No Trace — Quick case of a dead sister looking to know if her niece killed her mother (2/5); and,
- The Lying Game — Old trope about a liar and a truthteller, you can only ask one question (1/5).
Four of the Kit Blue slices don’t stand alone very well:
- A Woman Capable of Anything — Kit Blue watching a sleeping alcoholic mother (1/5);
- A Portable Life — Kit coming to terms with the past being destroyed (1/5);
- The Quarrel — Kit listening to her father explain his new wife’s behaviour (2/5); and,
- Death Review — Kit’s working in a hospital as a medical secretary, spotting glimpses of her mom in the other patients (2/5).
The Bottom Line
Kinsey is okay, Kit works well as a collection.