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It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's 38th birthday, and she's alone in her office doing 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 booze, but Michael Sutton is 27, an unemployed college dropout. Twenty-one years earlier, a four-year-old girl disappeared. A recent reference to her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial when he was six years old. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the child's remains and finding the men who killed her. It's a long shot, but he's willing to pay cash up front, and Kinsey agrees to give him one day.
As her investigation unfolds, she discovers Michael Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his current story true, or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?
Grafton moves the narrative between the 80s and the 60s, changing points of view, building multiple subplots, and creating memorable characters. Gradually, we see how they all connect. But at the beating center of the novel is Kinsey Millhone, sharp-tongued, observant, a loner - "a heroine", said The New York Times Book Review, "with foibles you can laugh at and faults you can forgive."
"It's as if Grafton purposely begins with a standard situation-and then gleefully sets about breaking every cardinal rule of the mystery novel." ( Los Angeles Times Book Review)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By BSquaredInOz on 01-02-10
A brilliant departure from the familiar
Who'd a thunk it? 21 installments into a series and, far from being a return to a comfort zone, Sue Grafton's latest effort is something of a departure from the routine. As the book opens private investigator Kinsey Millhone is asked to do a day's work by a young man, Michael Sutton. When he was six years old he saw two men burying something in the woods and he now believes they may have been burying the body of Mary Claire Fitzhugh, a four-year-old child who was kidnapped in 1967 and has never been seen since. Kinsey soon learns that it's not as clear-cut as Michael thought but, as always, she doggedly nuts out all the facts and builds her case.
With respect to the doggedness of Kinsey the book is as familiar as an old cardigan but the surprising element was that Kinsey's is only one of several stories that unfold. In addition there's a thread in the 1960's featuring a woman called Deborah Unrah whose grown son returns home greatly changed by the flower power movement and drug culture of the time and another 1988 thread featuring a middle-aged Walker McNally who is a repugnant alcoholic. These two characters, and several others who orbit around them, are deeply and perceptively depicted as their colliding stories are told.
In some ways the ending of the book is fairly predictable but this book isn't the same kind of procedural as its predecessors and relies less on that kind of suspense for its drama and conflict. This book is really about why things happen rather than what happened and it's this that is something of a departure for this series.
I would highly recommend the book to both Grafton's fans, who will have just enough of the familiar to satiate their needs, and those who have never read Grafton before because this, more than most of her other alphabet tales, is a standalone book of the highest quality. I can also recommend to audio book fans the added treat of listening to Judy Kaye's excellent narrataion which really did make the book fly by.
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