Neil Collins's Reviews > U Is for Undertow

U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
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's review
Dec 17, 2009

really liked it
Read from February 14 to 24, 2010

One of the most awful things about falling in love with a series author is that once you read all the existing one’s you have to wait for them to write another! That’s been the case for Sue Grafton and her alphabet series… And here we are at “U”, the 21st Kinsey Millhone mystery.

I do have to lament though, that of all, “U” is just not up to the standard set by the preceding 20 books. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but the level of excitement and intrigue just never build the way they have before. The case is only moderately interesting, lacking build and impact, and the climax left me wanting. Another issue I had difficulty with is something I am seeing more and more from various writers, with varying levels of success. That is, switching back and forth between telling the story in first person and then going to a third person telling to reveal what the main character could not know from their own point of view.

I do see that this particular story needs the back-story in order to let the reader understand it, but the ever expanding cast of characters left me confused and needing a road map. Add to that the fact that much of the back tale takes place 20+ years in the past, and it just left me spinning trying to keep up.

I suppose that, had the story been more engrossing, or the history been learned through Kinsey’s detective work, I would have been able to overlook, or even embrace the style. In the end though, I did like the story, but felt a little let down.

In Grafton’s defense though, she has written 20 outstanding Kinsey Millhone novels over more than two decades. I really do appreciate the loyalty she has shown to her characters and their lives. “U” takes place in 1988, because the stories do follow closely one after the other. Kinsey has aged only a few years, despite the passing of time for us in reader land. As a result, Grafton must tell the stories without the gadgets and trinkets that life in 2010 requires for mere existence. There are no cell phones, personal computers, internet, DVR’s, caller ID, etc… She never wavers from the fact that they aren’t yet invented; I dare you to try imagining such a day to day world, let alone writing detailed novels about that time.

I do recommend U is for Undertow to Grafton fans, but caution that the preceding books are better. If you’ve never read Sue Grafton, the only way to do it is to start with “A” and enjoy watching her world unfold.

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