Friday, December 2, 2022

Book Review: “W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #23)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Kinsey and other familiar characters make this interesting
Cons: Plot wanders all over the place
The Bottom Line:
Homeless man with note
The plot needed more focus
But characters charm

Distracted Plot Wastes Time in This Book

I’m winding down the Kinsey Millhone series.  I’m actually still trying to figure out how I’ve almost reached the end since when I started, I thought it would be a long time before I got there.  I’ve finished up “W” is for Wasted, which I enjoyed despite the flaws.

Kinsey is a private investigator working in the California coastal town of Santa Teresa, a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara.  She’s facing a stretch with no clients over the next couple of weeks, which she isn’t quite sure how she will fill.  That is, until she gets a phone call from the coroner’s office.  A homeless man has died, and the coroner has no idea who he is.  The only thing they have to go on is Kinsey’s name and office number.  Who might he be?  Why did he have Kinsey’s contact information in his pocket?

This is a pretty interesting premise, and I was immediately hooked.  I enjoyed some of the early revelations as well.  Then the book took a detour.  It’s a logical detour given what came before.  And, as a fan of the series, I was interested in seeing what would happen.  But essentially, we had a sub-plot that took up the entire middle third of the book with no forward progress on the central mystery.  It introduced a few things that are never really resolved.  And the parts of this sub-plot that are resolved are wrapped up almost as an afterthought.

Those familiar with the series know that Kinsey narrates the stories first person for us.  In recent books, we’ve started having chapters from other characters’ third person point of view.  That happens again here.  While I didn’t like to switch since I was interested in what was going on with Kinsey, I do understand that this was most of what was driving the mystery forward for too much of the book.

And yes, there is a crime.  We get to it eventually.  By the time we do, it’s just a matter of seeing how Kinsey can figure out what we’ve already learned from the other chapters.  There are one or two things from this part that also get dropped in the rush to wrap things up.  Given how long this book is, that’s saying something.

Here’s the thing – despite the flaws, I did enjoy this book.  Mostly, that’s because I love Kinsey and the other supporting characters.  Yes, we see the regulars again, although one really only has a cameo.  Meanwhile, a couple recurring characters pop up, which was nice.

As always, Judy Kaye did a good job with the audiobook.  She does a great job of bringing the characters and story to life without becoming too much a part of things.  Frankly, I wonder if the fact that I was listening to this book instead of reading it kept me from being as frustrated by the slow-moving plot as I would have been otherwise.

I definitely wish the plot had been structured differently and the book were tightened overall.  I think fans of this series will still enjoy “W” is for Wasted.  However, if you are new to the series, I wouldn’t recommend you start here.

Looking for more?  Here are the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries in order.


  1. You're doing great to get to "W" already.

  2. I never got to W, I think I stopped at U... or V. The books are fun for me since they are set in my town of Santa Barbara so I know the neighborhoods she talks about, etc. And like you, I like that we've come to know the cast of characters.

  3. I really liked the first books in the series but found the later books a bit more meh.


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