Friday Book Whimsy: Y is for Yesterday

I don’t make a practice of reviewing mystery books that are part of a series. In many cases, to enjoy the book, it is important that you have read the previous books for context and understanding of the characters. This isn’t always true, and I have made exceptions in the case of particularly good stories.

Author Sue Grafton’s alphabet series (beginning with A is for Alibi through Y is for Yesterday) is familiar to mystery readers and probably many other kinds of readers as well. Sadly, Grafton passed away a couple of weeks ago from cancer. I was unaware that she had cancer and her death caught me by surprise, especially since I had recently completed her most recent offering, Y is for Yesterday, published in August 2017. So, despite it being part of a series, I am going to review the book in honor of private eye Kinsey Millhone and her creator, Sue Grafton.

Millhone lives in the fictional town of St. Theresa, California, supposedly modeled after Santa Barbara. She is single after two unsuccessful marriages, and is fiercely independent. She lives in a little bungalow next door to her best friend, an 80-something man named Henry. Constants in all of the books are Henry’s delicious cinnamon rolls, Millhone’s ever-present glass of Chardonnay, and dinner at the Hungarian restaurant down the street which, according to Millhone, serves terrible food. When the series began, it was 1982. As of Y is for Yesterday, it was 1989.

Unfortunately, though I think Y is for Yesterday was better than the past couple of books (V is for Vengeance and the book she called X, thereby answering the question I had since reading A is for Alibi as to what her X book would be called), I didn’t find it to be nearly as enjoyable as her earlier books.

As I mentioned, it is 1989. Kinsey is contacted by the parents of a young man recently released from prison, where he served a sentence related to the murder of a high school classmate. He and some of his buddies had filmed a violent rape (which they swore was consensual sex) and the death of the classmate was related to this tape. The parents had been contacted by someone demanding lots of money or they would release the tape to the public.

At the same time as this is happening, Kinsey realizes that the serial murderer who nearly killed Kinsey in the book X but escaped was back and looking for revenge.

As usual, Grafton’s characterizations of Millhone and her peeps are excellent. These are people with whom I would like to spend time. The story, too, was well executed. My major complaint is that there were times in the book that I wanted to yell out, “For crying out loud, Kinsey, you’re seriously going to go for a walk without taking your gun?” Given Kinsey’s history, it just didn’t ring true. I also felt the men involved in the rape and murder didn’t seem realistic. The serial killer, however, was fascinating and TERRIFYING.

If you have never heard of, or read, this series, start at the beginning. You will become friends with some worthwhile characters. And don’t look for Z is for Zero, because Grafton had apparently not written a word yet, and forbade her children to hire a ghostwriter to continue the series. She also nixed (and always has) a movie based on the books.

Sue Grafton, rest in peace.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: 2015 Must Reads

I have read a few 2015 releases already – World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane; Under the Same Blue Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt; and A Spool of Blue Thread,  by Anne Tyler, to be specific. I enjoyed all three, and have posted reviews of them all.

But there are a few 2015 books that have either recently been released or are yet to be released that I wouldn’t even think of missing for a variety of reasons.

In no particular order….

Few would argue that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important American books of all time. The characters are unforgettable. Scheduled to be released on July 14, Go Set a Watchman is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. What makes this book particularly unique is that it was actually written and submitted years before To Kill a Mockingbird. Thought to be lost, the manuscript was found and will be released. Go Set a Watchman features the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird, but 20 years later.

Sadly, author Kent Haruf passed away last year, but not before completing Our Souls at Night, which was released May 26. Set in the same fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt, Our Souls at Night is the story of two elderly people, both who lost their spouses several years ago, who find friendship and love in their later years amidst the small town gossip. Kent Haruf writes the most unbelieveably beautiful prose imaginable. I have this book sitting on my ebook shelf, and am eagerly looking forward to finishing the books I have borrowed from the library to dig into this one. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows was released June 9 to much acclaim. Barrows is the author of the much-loved (including by me) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Barrows’ newest novel takes place in 1938 in a small West Virginian town, and tells the story of a young girl forced by her father (a United States Senator) to live in this small town despite her boredom. Boredom that is until she meets the Romeyn family and begins to unravel some family secrets. Sounds very good.

Julia Keller has become one of my favorite authors, and her protagonist Bell Elkins is one of my favorite characters. Last Ragged Breath, which will be released on August 25, is the next in the dark mystery series that also takes place in a fictional town in West Virginia. Her novels are contemporary, however. Keller’s writing is phenomenal and richly realistic. I can’t wait for this book to come out.

Speaking of mystery series, I’m eagerly awaiting Louise Penney’s next book The Nature of the Beast, featuring my beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The mysteries take place in a fictional small town near Quebec in Canada. Penney’s writing is imminently readable, but for me, the series is all about C.I. Gamache. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I want him to be one of my BFFs.

Our favorite bail bondsman Stephanie Plum and her gang of hilarious friends will be back November 17 in Tricky Twenty-Two. I am compelled to include this book, not because it is great literature, but because every single one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have been so funny that I am in danger of, well, never mind. There is no way in the world I would miss a single one of these mysteries. The Stephanie Plum books are one of several that I really prefer to listen to as opposed to reading simply because the woman who narrates the books – Lorelei King – is absolutely tremendous.

Author Sue Grafton will be releasing the next in her so-called alphabet series featuring private investigator Kinsey Milhone on August 25. I used to love this series, but as of late, it has began to feel repetitious. Still, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, and this novel, entitled X, is the third from the end. I can’t quit now. For the past 23 books, I have been wondering what Grafton would title the X-book. You know, like A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, L is for Lawless, O is for Outlaw, etc. I haven’t been able to think past X is for X-ray. Instead, Grafton went for simplicity with the title simply being X.  Who knows? Maybe Grafton will start over with double letters. You know, like AA is for Awesome Aardvark.

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank, is a must-read for me simply because I absolutely love her settings, all of which are the low country of South Carolina, near Charleston. Her books always feature a strong-willed woman facing difficult circumstances and coming out unscathed. I like Frank’s writing. All the Single Ladies was released June 9. The story centers around three women facing the death of a fourth woman. I hate books where characters die, but I will undoubtedly give this one a try.

My new favorite author, Karen White, has a new novel out, released on May 12. The Sound of Glass follows a familiar Karen White theme – a young woman learns she has inherited a family estate that, of course, has a secret attached. The Sound of Glass takes place in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is a draw for me. I’m not sure I’ll get to this novel right away as White is very prolific and I have only recently begun reading her books. But I will definitely read it sometime soon.

Are there books either recently released or soon-to-be-released that you are going to read?