Manzoid's Reviews > A is for Alibi

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
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's review
Feb 09, 2009

really liked it

I don't have a deep knowledge of mystery novels, just a few mainstream authors like Dick Francis and Dashiell Hammett, and within that limited experience I hadn't encountered a female lead. So when I finally responded to years of occasional recommendations from my mom and read "A is for Alibi", I was pleasantly surprised by the offbeat thinking of the protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. For instance, in one scene Kinsey is interrogating some punk at a construction site, and while listening to him bleat away, her gaze strays to a partially-built wall and she muses to herself, without irony, that she'd like to try bricklaying as a job for a while. That kind of oddball but authentic-sounding mental detail differentiates her in my mind from typical male detectives. Men tend to inflate and focus on themselves and their work more than women do, so Kinsey's bemused, thoughtful, self-aware remove from her professional role struck me as an interesting feminine slant on the whole hard-boiled detective thing. It was also interesting to see how violence was hardly ever a solution for her and when her hand was forced, she was emotionally affected by that violence, which certainly isn't part of the standard tough-guy trope. The standard love interest was also a fresh experience when seen from the woman's POV.

Kinsey definitely made the novel for me, but the characterizations were vivid and believable all around. The plot was not particularly compelling (I'd actually give a 3.5 if this rating system allowed that), but it was a serviceable vehicle for the characters.

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