Sue Grafton






Pan MacMillan, December 2005
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Female PIís are relative late-comers to crime fiction. Along with Sarah Paretskyís V. I. Warshawski and Marcia Mullerís Sharon McCone, Sue Graftonís Kinsey Millhone is one of the pioneers of this particular sub-genre. Her latest book S IS FOR SILENCE is the nineteenth release in the series.

In S IS FOR SILENCE Kinsey is hired by Daisy Sullivan to find her mother, Violet, who disappeared thirty-four years earlier from the small town in which they lived. Kinsey knows with a case this cold her chances of being able to find out anything new are very slim, but she feels sorry for Daisy and so against her better judgement she agrees to investigate.

As Daisy was only seven when her mother disappeared she is only able to provide limited information so Kinsey travels to the town, Serena Station, to talk to the people who knew Violet. Violet wasnít a very popular women. She was widely regarded as the town tramp and both Violet and her husband, Foley, were heavy drinkers.

Grafton switches time frames with each chapter, alternating between Kinsey talking to the people surrounding Violet and the events of July 1953. By finding the inconsistencies between her own research and what people remember Kinsey slowly builds up a picture of what happened. Things that were covered up and not mentioned at the time are brought to light. What was regarded as a potential scandal in the 1950ís is treated with a shrug in the more permissive 80ís. This very clever plot device enables the reader to not only build up a picture of life in small town America in the 1950ís but also reveals much about the characters and ultimately Violetís fate.

Too often in series books the author develops a plot formula which results in a feeling of "sameness" about them. Grafton has managed to avoid doing that beautifully in S IS FOR SILENCE.

Another problem often encountered with reading a series of books is that feeling of missing out on something if you don't start reading them from the beginning. Not only is S IS FOR SILENCE a fine addition to the series, but it also works well as a stand alone. Readers who have not yet met Kinsey will be able to enjoy this book as much as her legion of fans.

First published at Murder and Mayhem, March 2006


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