Spellbinder Saturday: Certainly Not a Waste!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from HAW is for Wasted

Today’s spellbinder: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton. This is neither middle-grade nor young adult fare, nor is Grafton a Utah writer. The series, however, is spellbinding and that’s what counts.

This is the twenty- first book in the Kinsey Millhone series; the first one published in 1982. This series differs from many others in that Kinsey ages about one year every two and a half books. W is for Wasted actually takes place in the fall of 1988. Other series just sort of ignore the fact that a year or two passes from book to book. Time marches on, but the protagonist never ages.

By sticking to her timeline, only six years has passed since the first book (A is for Alibi). As a result, Kinsey has no cell phone, no Internet, no iPad; all computers are non-graphic driven; Kinsey has to do things the old fashioned way.

The action takes place in Santa Teresa, CA. The town is based, loosely, on Bakersfield, CA but is directly on the coast.

For those of you who have never read a Millhone mystery, I assure you, you’ll like it. The pacing is just fast enough to keep you moving forward, but detailed enough to where you won’t be lost. There are no surprises; you see everything Kinsey sees, unlike some mysteries where the protagonist drops some previously unknown fact in the middle of telling who-done-it.

W is for Wasted starts out with two seemingly unrelated deaths: a PI who’s robbed and murdered and, a couple of months later, a homeless man who dies on the beach from kidney and liver damage. You know immediately they’re related but have no idea how or why; otherwise, they both wouldn’t be mentioned in the beginning of what becomes an intense search for the facts.

As usual, Grafton has crafted characters who are completely three-dimensional, some new and some from Kinsey’s past; there are even new relatives… distant cousins, but relatives just the same. Oh, and a whole lot of money.

By the time the smoke clears, everything ties together in a nice bow, but there are still story arcs open… just like real life. Will Kinsey have any more run-ins with her newly found relatives? What’s going to happen to the half-million dollars? Will she really get rid of the Mustang?

Kinsey Millhone is one of the best characters in the genre’ of mystery and Grafton is one of the best in the business. If you haven’t read any of the series, I highly recommend you get yourself to the library and find, if possible, A is for Alibi. Trust me, you’ll move on to B, C, all the way to W. Of course, by the time you get to W, X may already be out.

I’m looking forward to it.

See you Tuesday for new Tips.

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