Book review: Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 Permalink

In my review of Sue Grafton’s X (almost exactly two years ago) I mentioned that her Kinsey Millhone alphabet series has been a comfort read for me. There’s something warm, familiar and welcoming about the books. Whether it’s because they’re set in the not-too-distant past when time felt a little less frantic or whether it’s the fact that PI Kinsey lives a kind of ‘small’ (though complicated) life; I’m not sure.

For a long time I wanted to be Kinsey. Perhaps I still do. She’s not aged much in the 35 years since A is for Alibi was released and I note – in Y is for Yesterday – Kinsey makes mention of eight years of living above landlord Henry’s garage… so her life has passed in something akin to dog years… compared to ours. (Or is that vice versa?)

Book review: Y is for Yesterday by Sue GraftonY is for Yesterday
by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone #25
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
on August 29th 2017
Source: PanMacmillan
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1447260236
Pages: 483

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

When Y opens we find Kinsey uncharacteristically nervy. I’d re-read my review of X but of course hadn’t included any spoilers or outcomes and so forgotten her life was threatened and her attacker got away. So her (oft-admired by me) habit of long runs has been replaced by visits to the gym and daytime only exercise. Fortunately her habit of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches for dinner and her inability to ‘adult’ in general remain, so that’s a good thing. (She’s still eminently relatable to/for moi!)

Kinsey’s surrounded by her long-term support cast and I love that Grafton’s able to offer that texture without any of them hijacking the plot. (Janet Evanovich does similarly well with her Stephanie Plum number series.) Although of course support cast members have come and gone along the way.

Grafton also does a great job at giving readers the backstory they need – succinctly and with minimal fanfare. Because the books are (partially) written in first person she seems to almost always do so like thus:

My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a female private investigator, aged thirty-nine, living and working in this Southern Californian town (ed: Santa Teresa) ninety-five miles north of Los Angeles. I’m also single and cranky-minded to hear some people tell it. The small studio I’ve been renting for the pat eight-plus years was once a single-car garage, now expanded, designed, and custom-built by Henry Pitts, my eighty-nine-year-old landlord. pp 13-14

Hashtag: in a nutshell.

If I had a long holiday break I’d like to sit and binge-read the entire series to remind myself of the story arc and the many escapades of Kinsey… as well as her own growth. In some ways (like my joke about her lack-of ‘adulting’) it seems she’s changed little and I appreciate that she’s still a no-nonsense, no-fuss, low-maintenance kinda gal. But on the other she’s slowly grown emotionally…. allowing people into her life – something she struggled with early on. She’s fiercely loyal to her inner circle and the kind of friend you’d like to have in your corner.

This novel unfolds in two timeframes, a decade apart and Grafton takes us back and forth effortlessly from the events of 1979 back to the present (1989). It’s an interesting plot and though we’re privy to events beyond Kinsey’s knowledge there are obviously many secrets to be unfurled. I was perhaps a tad disappointed in the ending… and possibly a little confused in relation to the motive(s), but this is an excellent example of the journey outweighing the destination.

I very much enjoyed this read which I’m assuming to be the second last in the series and cannot help but wonder what’s in store for us when Z rolls around.

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



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