Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Review: "S" is for Silence by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #19)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Excellent mystery and sharp characters
Cons: Needlessly graphic sex scenes
The Bottom Line:
A missing woman
Excellent cold case story
But graphic content



Kinsey Tries to Solve a Very Cold Case

There is something fascinating about cold cases.  We can’t help but wonder what exactly happened all those years ago, and why the answers were never discovered.  When authors tap into that curiosity well, the result is something like “S” is for Silence, which is a great entry in Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series.

On July 4, 1953, Victoria Sullivan vanished without a trace and was never heard from again.  Her abusive husband lived under the shadow of suspicion, and her then seven-year-old daughter, Daisy, has lived with the questions about what happened to her mother and why.  And so, thirty-four years later, she hires PI Kinsey Millhone to try to finally solve this mystery.  Kinsey is reluctant to take on the case.  After all this time, what can she find?  Yet, as she begins to poke around, she suspects that the people she is talking to know more than they’ve ever told the police or are telling her.  Can she figure out what happened?

This book deviates from the normal books in the series because it includes multiple points of view.  While all the of the “modern” 1987 story is still narrated from Kinsey’s first-person point of view, we get chapters from the various players in 1953 written in limited third-person point of view.  It was a nice change for the series and really worked well for this book.

The story itself is strong as always.  Naturally, we know Kinsey is going to figure out what happened (how boring would the book be if Kinsey didn’t solve the cold case?), but each clue Kinsey discovers uncovers another tantalizing secret.  I was caught up in the story.  The climax was extremely creative and suspenseful while wrapping things up satisfactorily for me.  I was completely surprised by who the villain turned out to be, too.  I had someone else pegged.  I do wish we’d learned a bit more about some of the other supporting players and what happened to them after the case was solved, but that’s a minor point.

And that is a testament to how strong the characters are.  As I read these books, I am always in awe at how Sue Grafton is able to create characters in just a few words.  They pop into the book fully formed.  Even though who just have a scene or two are alive and memorable.

This book mostly takes place in Santa Maria.  We have a few scenes in Kinsey’s native Santa Teresa, but the recurring characters pretty much just get cameos.  That’s a disappointment, but again, a minor one.

My issue with this book is the content.  As enlightening as the 1953 flashbacks can be, they also contain some explicit sex.  It is established early on that Victoria is not faithful to her husband.  Unfortunately, we find out more about that in much more detail than I needed as the book progresses.  If that had been left out, I would have easily given this book a solid 5 stars.  Yes, I’ve read other books with sex in them, but trust me, this went further than those books did.  And we could have easily gotten the point with much less.

I’m still listening to the audio books, and once again Judy Kaye was the narrator.  She does a fabulous job of bringing Kinsey and the characters to life without intruding on the story.  And yes, that does mean I’ve fully made the transition to her as the narrator for the series.

It’s a shame that the book contains those needless scenes because the plot is excellent.  I still recommend “S” is for Silence for series fans, but be prepared to skim some of the scenes when you get to them.

Enjoy the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to ask if you've also reviewed the entire Sue Grafton ABC series, but then saw the link at the end of the post. I've read only one Grafton till date, V is for Vengeance, which was solid, but I also read it out of series, so I'm sure I lost some important references. Thanks for reminding me of the Grafton series again, it's really a series I need to get back to.

    ~Lex (lexlingua.co)
    (Found you over at Cloak & Dagger 2021)

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