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"A" is for Alibi (The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries, No 1)
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158 of 165 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I love all these recent reviews calling "A" trite and typical--Grafton wrote this in 1982, and if it seems trite now it's because Grafton revolutionized the genre, and everyone has been copying her plots and style ever since!
Kinsey Millhone is a hard-boiled, gun-toting, loner--a private investigator who keeps to herself and does whatever it takes to solve her case. I first read this book as a teenager, and Kinsey's toughness and un-sentimentality turned me off (young romantic that I was). Coming back to this series as an adult has given me an appreciation for the character and the genre that I lacked before. What you see is what you get with Kinsey Millhone, and that simplicity is her strength.
This book is not only truly groundbreaking, it is also a plain ol' great mystery. Grafton keeps Kinsey busy interviewing suspects, following leads, and stirring up trouble. Kinsey's work is pretty much her life, and except for the occasional evening with a handsome stranger, you can expect her to stay focused on the case.
Unless you prefer your mysteries soft and cozy, you'll enjoy Kinsey Millhone and her straight-forward approach to crime. Best of all, if you enjoy this one, there are 14 more (so far) to keep you busy.
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"A is for Alibi" is the first book in Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery series centering on Kinsey Millhone a 32 year old Private Investigator living in California. I have just started this series but I really enjoyed this book. The mystery keeps pages turning as it intriguing, suspenseful and a real fast read. The character Kinsey is very independent, you feel as you now know her and she is portrayed as somebody you do know.
Nikki Fife has just been released from prison after doing 8 years for the murdering her husband, Laurence. Nikki wants Kinsey to find the person who really killed Laurence. Kinsey begins to investigate and finds out about another murder committed only days after Laurence's that is extremely similar. The victim was the accountant for Laurence's law firm, Libby Glass, and she was killed using an identical method of poisoning. This trail is 8-years-old and Kinsey knows it won't be easy to find the truth.
Kinsey begins to put together a picture of the people involved and the circumstances that lead up to Laurence's murder. But somebody is not too pleased with Kinsey investigating and unveiling facts that could lead to the true murderer. Kinsey gets herself into danger, and as she struggles to put the pieces together, someone is trying to stop her.
Grafton does a great job with the suspense and "who done it " in this book. Makes you ready for more of Kinsey Millhone. The book was a fun, simple read that I managed in an evening. You don't want to miss this one and I have a feeling they will get addictive.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a fan of this series, but I have to admit that its first installment was a bit weak. Had I read this one before the series had built up some momentum, I probably wouldn't have bothered to move on to B is for Burglar. Many of the plot points had a contrived feel to them, and Kinsey often acted out of character. I think those moments were also the result of attempts at plot manipulation that just didn't work out too well.
The thing is, though, that the series as a whole is quite good, and it's just a shame that its beginning is less than spectacular. That's why I always recommend that new Grafton readers start off with G is for Gumshoe and then go back to the start of the series once they know what treats they are in for later.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 4, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series of Alphabet mysteries has been a huge seller since its inception in 1982. I've wanted to read the books for years but didn't for one reason or another. I finally sat down with the first entry, "A is for Alibi," and plunged into it. Nikki Fife is a young widow who was recently released from prison; she served eight years for killing her husband. She insists that she's innocent and hires Kinsey to clear her name.

Kinsey's first case is interesting and filled with a number of suspects. It's a solid mystery book. Kinsey is a likeable protagonist, who has just enough shades of gray and quirks. She's the kind of lead who doesn't distract too much from the mystery at hand, but she's interesting enough to carry the book. Grafton's writing is good - straight-forward but filled with nice details. At times, she spends perhaps a bit too much time describing Nikki and the murder suspects. However, that's a minor quibble. I wasn't blown away by "A is for Alibi," but it was good enough that I've already ordered the next entry, "B is for Burglar."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
How can you not love a PI who cuts her own hair, jogs for miles and then pigs out on fatty food at McDonalds, and knows how to speak her mind? Ms. Grafton has given us readers a special gift in the form of Kinsey. Sure, A is for Alibi, is slow to start, and not much plot, but most first books are the same. Keep reading the series, you'll list Grafton as a top mystery writer by the time you finish C is for Corpse.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kinsey Millhone is a 32-year-old private investigator residing in Santa Teresa, California. Her main assignment in 'A' is for Alibi is to discover who killed Laurence Fife, an influential divorce lawyer with firsthand experience in wrecking marriages. His last wife, Nikki Fife, was found guilty eight years ago of slipping oleander in his antihistamine pills. Now free, Nikki contacts Kinsey and asks her to find the real killer.
The suspects range from Laurence's close friend and associate (and Kinsey's new lover), Charlie Scorsoni, to his "bitter" first wife Gwen. But whoever the killer is, Laurence wasn't the last victim. Four days after he died, a young accountant (Libby Glass) was found dead in her bathroom, apparently drugged with the same poison. Yet Libby's death was never connected to Laurence's, although it was rumored they were intimately involved.
Another woman is later killed during Kinsey's investigation, leading Kinsey to conclude she might be next. How close can Kinsey get to uncovering the truth without risking her own life?
'A' is for Alibi is the first book I've read so far by Sue Grafton, and it certainly won't be my last. Kinsey is definitely a likable character--rough and smart--, and the plot is entertaining enough for any mystery buff. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries solved by female private detectives. If you do, don't miss any of the other books in this alphabet mystery series: 'B' is for Burglar, 'C' is for Corpse, 'D' is for Deadbeat, 'E' is for Evidence, 'F' is for Fugitive, 'G' is for Gumshoe, 'H' is for Homicide, 'I' is for Innocent, 'J' is for Judgment, 'K' is for Killer, 'L' is for Lawless, 'M' is for Malice, 'N' is for Noose, 'O' is for Outlaw, and 'P' is for Peril.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book began as a realistic murder investigation as told in the first person by the no-nononsense PI heroine. It followed the beloved format of murder-mysteries of the past 100 years or so of having the investigator spend the entire book interviewing one suspect/witness after another. This was well done. The author has a sharp eye for character and setting detail and it an easy and light read. However, somewhere about 3/4 of the way into the book, the PI starts to spin one murder theory scenerio after another, none of which rang true. As this happens her actions become totally unrealistic as she chooses not to let the police know what is going on even as it becomes clear that her silence is costing lives. There is never any reason given for this other then she must be too big of a hotshot to get help. She even tampers with a murder scene for no particuliar reason other then to keep clues to herself. By the end of the story the theories are coming faster and faster and finely it ends so abruptly that I kept thinking I was missing pages. The actions of the murderer are so far out by the end, that this book heads straight of into fantasy land. There were many little loose ends that are never explained and I felt cheated. It was exciting while I was reading it, but I recieved no satifaction at the end. I doubt I will ever pick up another of her books. I am at a total loss as to why she is so highly praised. By the way some will be offended at the authors mean spirited fat jokes aimed at the manager of the hotel she seems to visit often.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you've read enough private investigator novels you know that this isn't the best one... She doesn't fool around with the genre like most good authors do and she relies on formula in her first novel... I knew the killer the moment she met... her/him... You should too... Decent Style but Robert Parker and Dennis Lehane are better modern day PI novelists
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was really surprised to read all the bad reviews for this book. This was my first of Sue Grafton's books and I enjoyed it very much. After reading all of Patricia Cornwell's novels, I was afraid that I won't find another author whom I will like that much. Now I can't wait to keep buying and reading her other novels. I admit, her style is a bit slow, but give here a chance, "A" was her first book! I think the character Kinsey is hilarious and smart and of course, I love the fact that she's a woman!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"'A' is for Alibi," by Sue Grafton, is narrated in the first-person by California private investigator Kinsey Millhone--a twice-divorced, childless 32-year old woman who lives in a one-room "bachelorette" apartment. Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife, a woman who had been sent to prison after being convicted of murdering her husband. Nikki maintains her innocence and wants Kinsey to find the real killer--eight years after the murder. This assignment leads to deceit and danger for the sleuth.
This is a suspenseful, intriguing murder mystery. Grafton has an eye for detail and a gift for creating characters. Kinsey is an especially memorable detective. She's tough and no-nonsense, but still has her vulnerable points. She's smart, but not a superwoman; rather, a believable, down-to-earth heroine.
The matter-of-fact narration is very effective. We get insights into Kinsey's detection technique along the way. This is a story of murder, sex, greed, and deception, well told by Grafton.
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