DSTN Arts | "A is for Alibi": Review by Danica Rice

Welcome back to DSTN Arts, today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite mystery series. The reason why I love this mystery series so much is that the main character is such a strong female character that I can strongly identify with and love reading about. 

Our protagonist’s name is Kinsey Millhone, and she is a private investigator with her own agency, Millhone Investigations, and as the story goes, she is 32 years old, twice divorced, no kids, lives alone in a small studio apartment in a converted garage on her landlord’s property.   Some additional information that makes her easier to identify with is how she loves peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, eaten over the kitchen sink so she doesn’t dirty another dish, drives around in a late 60’s model Volkswagen bug, keeps a change of clothes along with a toothbrush and a wrinkle free little black dress, in her car trunk.  Personally, I like her because she’s most comfortable in a turtleneck and jeans, and is perfectly happy in a small studio apartment, running her own agency.

Why should the Deaf community be aware of this remarkable series, you might be wondering? Well, the way I see it, it encourages independence and solid female identities, and throughout my life, I’ve been changed because of this character, indeed, I’ve seen myself become more comfortable with who I am, because this character exists. There is a strong sense of morality in the character, yet she knows when the right thing is to bend the rules, such as when she needs to break in or read someone’s mail, so you get the sense that you’re on the ride with her, you see her as imperfect, yet, strong and solid, she knows who she is.  This is a type of character that everyone would benefit from in their lives, whether it be themselves or someone they know. 

Not to mention, this series has a multitude of amazing storylines that grip your attention and truly make you forget that you aren’t living in Santa Teresa (which is modeled after the real life town of Santa Barbara) with Kinsey, tracking down suspects and visiting clients.  The nice thing about this series is that it never follows a “formula”, in the standard “murder mystery” route of “someone gets killed, police go to the scene and interview suspects and run around finding suspects with consultants” type of story, it’s actually more like the older style of murder mysteries where someone shows up in Kinsey’s office, asks for her to take them on as a client, they fill out paperwork and then she does the work which often begins as something innocuous such as tracking down a missing son for instance and subsequently leads to something more or less sinister, with multiple storylines forking from the main one. 

The first book in this series is called “A is for Alibi”, written by Sue Grafton. Throughout her career, she wrote approximately one book every two years. Unfortunately, on December 28, 2017, she passed away suddenly from cancer at the age of 77, after publishing “Y is for Yesterday”.  Her daughter is quoted as saying that there was not enough material present for someone to attempt to finish Z on her behalf, and that “Grafton would never allow a ghostwriter to write in her name and "as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.” 

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I was fortunate enough to meet this remarkable woman before her passing, during the book tour for “X”. She herself was the basis for Kinsey Millhone, as “the person I might have been, had I not married young and had children” and truly did a remarkable job with outstanding character development and keeping in touch with her fans on her Facebook page and on tours. Her daughter now monitors and updates her mother’s Facebook page.

I would strongly encourage you, if you like really good mystery stories with incredible characters, especially strong female ones, to read “A is for Alibi”.   This, the first book in the series, is a small one (only 274 pages), and is a perfect way to “test the waters,” as the stellar character development begins in book one and only grows stronger as the series goes on.   “A is for Alibi” was published and set in 1982.  Please join us next time on DSTN Arts, and either comment below or send me an email at dstnarts@gmail.com to let me know your thoughts!