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U Is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone #21)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  16,890 ratings  ·  1,857 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 disap ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 403 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Putnam
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  • U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
    U is for Undertow
    Enter to win one of 10 copies of Sue Grafton’s U IS FOR UNDERTOW, and don’t forget to check out the newest in the series, X, out August 25!


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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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    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
    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
    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
    Kasa Cotugno
    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 hea ...more
    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 Tolstoy ...more
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    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 an ...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
    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 forwa ...more
    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 sci ...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 invest ...more
    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 writ ...more
    Tayra Toledo
    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
    Sharon Stockham
    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 comp ...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
    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
    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
    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) me ...more
    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 observati ...more
    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
    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
    Lisa Vegan
    Dec 17, 2009 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
    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
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    Barbara ★
    I usually love these books but I found this one to be incredibly boring. Sue Grafton is overly descriptive of every little thing. For example, one of the villains wastes time in a quick mart and she describes every single thing on the shelves. Why? Does the author think that the readers have never been to a 7-11? Seriously this is not the only time she does this. At one point Kinsey is cleaning out her cupboards and every single item is mentioned, then she goes to the store to replenish and agai ...more
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    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
    Steven Peterson
    Once upon a time, I read each of the alphabet mysteries written by Sue Grafton as they came out. By maybe K or L, I was Millhoned out. I didn't quit reading because the series had lost its charm, or the works had grown stale. It was just that I had read so many that I no longer felt compelled to purchase each new version. Indeed, I did something similar with the V. I. Warshawski series--although there it was more getting tired of the character who could not learn and could not grow (using a phra ...more
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    Sandra Kasturi
    Hmmm. I've always enjoyed this series, though I will say that I've enjoyed it less as time has gone on. I guess part of it is that I feel faintly bamboozled by Grafton because of the conceit that Kinsey Millhone is still operating as a PI in...the late 80s now? Early 90s? Now, this wouldn't normally bother me, but when these books started, they were set in "the present" - but because only a couple of months would pass in Kinsey's life, while a year would go by in real life, the series would fall ...more
    It's been a while since I spent some time with Kinsey, and I have skipped a lot of letters so I don't know if the quirks that stuck out in this book were always there and I just missed them before (or forgot them) or if they are new. Kinsey's narration is incredibly detailed, which can be good or bad, possibly depending on my mood. Seriously. Sometimes it makes the scene easier to visualize ("I turned left onto --- street"), and sometimes you wonder, why do I need to know this? ("I grabbed my ja ...more
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    The Women's Myste...: U is for Undertow 1 5 Aug 09, 2013 09:33PM  
    sue grafton interview NOV 14TH 1 27 Oct 27, 2011 06:08PM  
    Too predictable 1 27 Aug 02, 2010 11:30AM  
    • Hardball (V.I. Warshawski, #13)
    • Vanishing Point (Sharon McCone, #23)
    • Whisper To The Blood (Kate Shugak, #16)
    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)
    A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1) M is for Malice (Kinsey Millhone, #13) J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone, #10) K is for Killer (Kinsey Millhone, #11) B is for Burglar  (Kinsey Millhone, #2)

    Share This Book

    “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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