* Best-selling novelist Sue Grafton dies at the age of 77
* A look back at her top 10 Kinsey Millhone books
* The author leaves a legacy of fiction and screenplays
This past December saw the passing of best-selling novelist Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery series. Each volume was titled after a letter of the alphabet; the famously prolific writer released her last book “Y is for Yesterday” just this past August, only a few months before her battle with cancer ended. Referencing her mother’s work on Facebook, her daughter Jamie Clark wrote “As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”
Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series centered around a private investigator in a fictional California town, based on the city she called home, Santa Barbara. Beyond the series, she wrote screenplays for two TV adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels “Sparkling Cyanide” and “A Caribbean Mystery.” She also co-wrote the screenplay for Lolly-Madonna XXX, a film based on her own 1969 novel, “The Lolly-Madonna War.”
Her works were true definitions of the term “page-turner:” If you’ve read her books, then you’ve probably wound up binge reading in a state of addictive anticipation, so skilled was she at creating suspense and intrigue through the written word.
So to honor of this incredibly prolific writer, we’ve pulled together 10 of the best Sue Grafton novels, and not necessarily in the order of A to Y.
Considered by fans and critics alike her darkest and most chilling novel, X is about a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Private investigator Kinsey Millhone’s challenge is to prove her case against him—before she becomes his next victim.
2. W Is For Wasted
A mystery man and a local PI are both killed in the series fictional town of Santa Teresa, the former found with Kinsey Millhone’s name and number in his pocket. As she digs deeper into the two deaths, she finds herself compromised, just as you’ll find yourself glued to every page until the surprise ending.
3. V Is For Vengeance
By the release of V, the Kinsey Millhone series was already in its 3rd decade. But time hasn’t dulled Grafton’s knack for suspense and complex storytelling – if anything, V proves she’s still sharp as ever as she takes you through another heart-pounding mystery involving a banker, trophy wife and of course, plenty of mystery gunmen.
4. Kinsey and Me: Stories (Kinsey Millhone Mystery)
In a break from her alphabet series, Grafton add more richness to the character of Kinsey Millhone, while giving us a glimpse at her own early life through the guise of a new character, Kit Blue, in this two-part collection of stories.
5. Y Is For Yesterday
Though the story starts in 1979, the subject matter is utterly relevant and contemporary in true Grafton style. In Y, four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a 14-year-old classmate—and film the attack. The tape goes missing, setting off a chain of murder and disappearance in this modern day whodunit.
6. U Is For Undertow
Kinsey Millhone’s latest assignment brings her a man convinced he witnesses the burial of a kidnapped child when he himself was a child decades ago. While investigating the man’s fuzzy recollection, Kinsey finds herself uncovering a web of decades-old deceit.
7. A Is For Alibi
It’s the mystery novel that started it all in 1982, “A is for Alibi” introduces Kinsey Millhone as a tough ex-cop and a loner. Consider a key primer on Sue Grafton’s legendary series.
8. G Is For Gumshoe
What seems like an uneventful, easy assignment locating a woman’s elderly mother turns complicated once she finds the woman frightened and alone in a hospital.
9. S Is For Silence
Kinsey Millhone picks up the trail on a cold case from the 50s, concerning a woman named Violet who disappeared from her rural California town. While decades have past, Kinsey finds some old wounds not healed by time.
10. The Lolly Madonna War
Published when she was just 29, “The Lolly Madonna War” was Grafton’s 5th novel and the last before she embarked on her Kinsey Millhone alphabet series. The story centers around two families in rural Tennessee at odds with each other; it was eventually made into a movie directed by Richard C. Sarafian. Sadly this early work is out of print, but it can still be tracked down – for a price.