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U Is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone #21)

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  20,113 Ratings  ·  2,053 Reviews
It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's thirty-eighth birthday, and she's alone in her office catching up on paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy a beer, but Michael Sutton is twenty-seven, an unemployed college dropout. More than two decades ago, a four-year-old girl ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 403 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Putnam
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Community Reviews

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Jan 26, 2010 CJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-books
I could just say, "the best one yet" and be correct, but that seems a little too simple. I started reading this alphabet series after Grafton had written four of them. I loved her descriptions of everything and felt like I was sitting on a park bench in Santa Teresa. I still feel that way.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing once. She had spoken about how she received letters from people admonishing her about how much Kinsey swore. She reacted by having Kinsey swear less, but felt uneasy about i
Feb 02, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
Ok, I love this series, and with a few exceptions, I really liked each and every one. I think L is my least favorite, and I wasn't overly thrilled with O, or Q. But this, her latest book, is outstanding.

Kinsey Milhone is a unique and strong character, and that's one of the things I love about this series. On one hand, she dislikes socializing, but has a few really good friends she loves to hang out with. Her landlord, Henry, is a doll. He is 80 something and has three brothers in their 90's. (O
Feb 12, 2012 Afsana rated it liked it
I thought this was an interesting idea of the boy who cried wolf and then would not be believed.

It was told from different view points, the past and present and different characters and that made it interesting

What I don't quite get and which the book didn't explain was how the the "boy who cried wolf" could have been telling the truth when he couldn't have possibly witnessed as he was in another country and this was the documented by photogrphic proof? it made it unlikely- how as a writer can
Kasa Cotugno
Jan 03, 2010 Kasa Cotugno rated it really liked it
There is a character in Sue Grafton's 21st book of her Kinsey Millhone series who is taking a class in creative writing. His teacher specifically chides him for creating "characteristics," not "characters." The teacher then goes on with specifics, pointing out that by writing out of his head and not his gut, the student failing to establish a connection between writer and reader. This, I believe, is Grafton's secret of why her novels stand out above the rest in the genre. She writes from the ...more
Dec 29, 2009 Kristina rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
I found myself thinking, here we go with another Kinsey Millhone book. Big deal. I've read all Sue Grafton's books, so I might as well continue, right? But it had been awhile since I read the last one, and I have to say that "U" reminded me of why I've happily read all Grafton's books over the years. If one definition of a good read is finding it hard to put the book down because you can't wait to see what happens next - then "U is for Undertow" offers that, hands down. Sue Grafton isn't ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Dagny rated it liked it
This entry struck me as a bit different from the previous books in this series. Intertwined with a case Kinsey expected to be a one-day stopgap was an investigation into her own past and estranged family. The case itself caught Kinsey's attention and became almost an obsession as she worked on it without payment. The only thing I didn't care for was the amount of time spent away from Kinsey as we flashed back and forth in time with characters involved in the case of the missing girl. Parts of it ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it
I usually listen to these alphabet mystery books on audio, so missed that interaction with Kinsey. The story was compelling and while reading on my Kindle, I found myself grabbing it up whenever I could. The title significance of "Undertow" was very subtle (too subtle for me to get it without really thinking about it later, see spoiler). The family references were a continuation of the potential for a reunion that has gone on for several books now. I thought the ending was a bittersweet touch ...more
Tayra Toledo
Jul 10, 2011 Tayra Toledo rated it did not like it
First of all, I want to clarify that when I picked-up this book, I had realistic expectations. I was not expecting great literature. I just wanted an entertaining, suspense light-read. This book didn't even provide that.

I do not understand so many positive ratings on this book. I do acknowledge that I picked it up without having read anything else in the series. However, I didn't like anything about it. There is absolutely nothing special about Grafton's writing style. She overly describes every
Dec 25, 2009 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
It is surprising to some that Sue Grafton has tripped along the alphabet and has continued to delight her faithful readers. Her books are pleasing, absorbing and contain an interesting assortment of vivid characters.This mystery, as her others, is not a heart-pounding tale,but compelling in Grafton's capable manner of weaving her narrative. It is difficult not to find attraction to her star detective, Kinsey Millhone. She is a no- nonsense, unassuming lady, who trims her own hair with a nail ...more
May 06, 2013 Pamela rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
By this entry, the 21st in the series, I'm pretty bored with Kinsey Millhone. And it seems that the author is, too. This time around Grafton includes flashbacks to the events of 20 years before the time of this "mystery" and the characters and events are much more interesting than the telling of Kinsey's bumbling investigation. (This may be because The author's writing is also tiresome: Kinsey always "fires up the engine" when she "hops into her Mustang". Her "answering machine light blink(s) ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Diane added it
Sue Grafton's skill at crafting a good mystery hasn't abated as she continues through the alphabet. She's clever enough to set U Is for Understow in 1988, when Kinsey Milhone is still a fairly young, but experience 38-years-old, and when most people didn't have access to iPods, iPhones, computers that can do everything but scrub the toilet, and all the other amenities of life in 2010. Consequently, Grafton's plot doesn't have to take this modern technology into account.

The murder at the heart of
Aug 15, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, 2016

Sue Grafton is a master of her craft. The Kinsey Milhone mysteries are long-time favorites of mine, so perhaps I'm biased. I've listened to the majority as audio books, so I must also acknowledge Judy Kaye who's narrated all of them. She IS Kinsey for me.

Every time I read these books, I'm impressed with two things:

- What Kinsey accomplishes with seemingly simple investigative techniques
- How charming life seems in Santa Theresa in that time period

In this book, Kinsey is working on a cold case
Sharon Stockham
Dec 04, 2009 Sharon Stockham rated it liked it
I have always thoroughly enjoyed this mystery series. It is light reading, but the author is good at developing characters. The reason I didn't give this a higher rating is because she moves back and forth between multiple characters and a story line that flows between the book's present and 20 years earlier. Too many characters and no pattern that I could ever discern as to why she chose to move backwards at the various times. Each chapter introduced something unrelated to the chapter just ...more
Sep 03, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it
Sturdy if not long entry in the consistently excellent PI Kinsey Millhone series. This one reads something like a novel, with different POVs and a nice slice of Kinsey's personal life offered. The detailed settings are vivid and striking. It takes a while for the mystery to unfold, but the narrative flow sweeps you along until there's traction. Like any PI worth his or her salt, Kinsey in tenacious. She never gives up once she's all in the mix. Reading the alphabet titles is a treat I look ...more
Hace ya bastantes años que llevo siguiendo los casos de Kinsey Millhone, la detective privado creada por Sue Grafton, y su abecedario del crimen. Recuerdo que sus primeras novelas eran frescas, con un personaje carismático llamado Kinsey que me acabó conquistando desde sus primeros títulos, en los que hacia alarde de su insistencia en sus investigaciones, como un perro de presa, aparte de su perspicacia. Pero Kinsey no es una Sherlock Holmes moderna, con unas dotes extraordinarias para la ...more
Jan 12, 2010 Bondama rated it it was amazing
Although Sue Grafton isn't an author I would break into a bookstore for -- I admit it, I do love her books. She has managed, going virtually through the entire alphabet, to write good, sometimes excellent mystery-thrillers. Her protagonist, Kinsey Milhone, is written as a very real person - so superwoman tendencies (Such as Lee Childs' Jack Reacher, to mention one) -- She's just an ordinary Private Investigator, with a very complicated backstory. And this is why I wanted to take the time to ...more
Apr 24, 2015 Judith rated it really liked it
Grafton is nearly to the end of the alphabet. What next?
As she nears the end, her work has become sloppy and poorly researched.
For example:
(a) regarding beds;in 1967, people didn't call them futons: they were day-beds.

(b) I don't believe that Percocet was the pain reliever of doctor's choice in 1988: more like Tylenol 3 with codeine and I think even Darvon was still around.

(c) I don't think even California types plagued their children with play-dates in 1968; that word came into vogue in the la
Sep 22, 2016 Joi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one and I can't wait to read the next one. I liked the different perspectives and I like how there wasn't too much focus on the background characters because it just wasn't necessary. I can definitely say that this is one of my favorite series.
Lisa Vegan
Dec 17, 2009 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone who’s read A through T
I’m still at least as in love with Henry as ever and I enjoyed Kinsey and the Santa Teresa setting at least as much as always.

It’s so well written and she’s such a good storyteller. As usual, there was much that was amusing; I love mysteries that contain some humor.

I love Donna Andrews and Nevada Barr and Abigail Padgett's Bo Bradley series, and many other mystery authors and series, but I think Sue Grafton remains my favorite mystery author. Her books are not too scary, there’s not too much vio
Kathleen Hagen
U is for Undertow: a Kinsey Millhone Mystery, number 21 in the Millhone series, by Sue Grafton, a-minus, narrated by Judy Kaye, produced by Books on Tape, downloaded from

I can’t imagine the Millhone books read by anyone else but Judy Kaye. She has just the understated acerbic tone of voice to characterize Kinsey, and she can change voice and mood for the other characters as well. In this one Kinsey is sitting alone in her office doing paper work when a young man, Michael Sutton, come
Jul 17, 2010 Wanda rated it it was ok
Normally I enjoy the Grafton series as fluffy beach reads. The suspense has kept me reading in the past and have found Kinsey Millhone to be an interesting character, with her reminiscences of former boyfriends, wonderfully paternal landlord and charmingly intrusive Hungarian restaurant owner friend. But I found this one to be a disappointment. I found myself skipping parts, which I don't normally do with Sue Grafton's books. The parts on the history of the area were not an improvement and I did ...more
Jan 22, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
I started reading Sue Grafton in the late 1980's. From the very first book Kinsey Millhone has been a favorite character and I have been at every book signing of Sue's since. What I think sets Kinsey apart from other repeat characters in murder mystery novels is the fact that Kinsey (21 books later)is still in the 1980's. While Sue's books come out every two years or so, Kinsey's cases are only months apart. The tools Kinsey has at her disposal are not high-tech; instead, they are keen ...more
4* A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)
4* B is for Burglar (Kinsey Millhone, #2)
4* C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone, #3)
4* D is for Deadbeat (Kinsey Millhone, #4)
4* E is for Evidence (Kinsey Millhone, #5)
4* F is for Fugitive (Kinsey Millhone, #6)
4* G is for Gumshoe (Kinsey Millhone, #7)
4* H is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone, #8)
4* I is for Innocent (Kinsey Millhone, #9)
4* J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone, #10)
4* K is for Killer (Kinsey Millhone, #11)
4* L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millho
Sep 23, 2015 RebeccaS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
The last few books have gotten more and more intense as the series goes on. The middle letters were dull compared with these! Crazy characters and impossible situations...I am still so amazed by what Kinsey is about to discover about past and present. She really is like a terrier who cannot let anything go until she has the answers. This time (like T) we know who the probable suspects are in this case pretty early and have to watch Kinsey wind her way to the truth. I also really liked the ...more
Alexandra Sterling
Good yarn, but too much fluff

Sue Grafton crafts a fair story, bit she fluffs it out with detail that made me almost put the book down more than once. From mundane details of the protagonist's housekeeping, to hackneyed turns of phrase describing landscapes and weather (that fail to create a mood), she blatantly ignores the advice that that one of the characters receives from his mentor. The fluff detracts from the overall impression of the story. The sex was gratuitous and icky. I ended up skimm
Apr 02, 2016 itchy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: w
body count: +2
a million thanks to may for this book. i forget the occasion. i sincerely hope this won't be the last, somehow i doubt it.
Oct 11, 2016 Gea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Vond het boek wel goed, maar niet echt geweldig. Maar hopen dat de volgende wat beter is.
Jun 09, 2010 Jlaurenmc rated it really liked it
Let me begin by getting a few things straight. I love Sue Grafton. And I love Kinsey Milhone. I love both of them in Grafton's latest novel, U is for Undertow, and I also really liked the novel. Yes, I said that exactly right -- I love Grafton & Milhone, and liked Grafton's latest book. It did what it was designed to do; it gave readers more of what they've been asking for -- more Kinsey. It just didn't (400 plus pages later) satisfy my yearning for another great Grafton mystery.

In U is for
Jan 22, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Connect with Sue herself on Facebook!

Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievement award) in 2003.

Family History:

Father: C.W. Grafton, born 1909, third son of Presbyterian Missionaries, born and raised in China, educated Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina; practicing attorney in Louisville, Kentucky with a 40-year specialty in municipal bonds. Au
More about Sue Grafton...

Other Books in the Series

Kinsey Millhone (1 - 10 of 24 books)
  • A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)
  • B is for Burglar  (Kinsey Millhone, #2)
  • C is for Corpse  (Kinsey Millhone, #3)
  • D is for Deadbeat (Kinsey Millhone, #4)
  • E is for Evidence (Kinsey Millhone, #5)
  • F is for Fugitive (Kinsey Millhone, #6)
  • G is for Gumshoe  (Kinsey Millhone, #7)
  • H is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone, #8)
  • I is for Innocent (Kinsey Millhone, #9)
  • J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone, #10)

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“If I'd been listening closely, I'd have caught the sound of the gods having a great big old tee-hee at my expense.” 9 likes
“I showered and shampooed. I even shaved the requisite legs and armpits just in case I fell in a swoon and one or the other was exposed to view. (Kinsey Millhone)” 3 likes
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