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Showing 1-10 of 163 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
VINE VOICEon December 20, 2005
It's been too long since I was really excited about a Sue Grafton novel. Way too long since I was 2/3 of the way through and just had to finish it, no matter what other use I was supposed to be making of my time. Although I was a bigger fan of "O" and "P" than most of her readers, I didn't like "Q" at all, and didn't even take the time to review "R". That says a lot. I've felt that Grafton had her heroine, private detective Kinsey Millhone, stuck in a rut she would never break free of. I didn't think she'd let Kinsey grow, similar to what other authors HAVE done (notably Marcia Muller) for their female detectives. I'd have to say the last really good book the series produced was "I is for Innocent". That's a lot of alphabet that has been burned up without a breakthrough. Although Kinsey doesn't move far away from center here, the book comes off in a way in which the older books in series did.

This book is different. Grafton employs a couple of strategies that are oft used in mysteries today, the concept of the protagonist taking on a "cold case" (which Kinsey has done before) and the use of a flashback...and the type of flashback that has a new chapter simply taking place in the past, making the cold case characters come alive as Kinsey investigates the in "the future". Grafton's future, the timeframe where she sets Kinsey, is 1987, and the disappearance she is tracking occurred in 1953.

Violet Sullivan is a bad girl. Red haired and extremely attractive, Violet disappears in her new car from Serena Station, a small California backwater town. She's been a victim of domestic abuse, but she leaves her small daughter, Daisy, behind, and takes her new Pomeranian with her. After many dysfunctional years of trying to forget, Daisy hires Kinsey, who comes to her attention through a friend. The case has Kinsey leaving her native Santa Teresa and sometime lover Cheney Phillips behind. Typical Kinsey haunts and friends are mentioned only fleetingly in this book. It's hard to know who wants Kinsey involved less....her own conscience, which says she'll probably not find anything, or folks in the little town, who seem to feel she's stirring up trouble.

Kinsey pries up a rock or two, and actually stumbles across the fate of Violet Sullivan, after learning about most (but not all) of Violet's affairs. The reader actually gets to see the way Violet meanders through the town's men, but in uncovering the person who did her harm, there are a lot of dead ends, and I confess that I didn't know the identity of who and what. That's what kept me reading. And although, true to form, when Grafton reveals, she shuts down the novel with very little afterplay, well, this book still gave life to what was a dying series. Kudos to Grafton for reviving her heroine and giving us a great, pre-holiday read!
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In 1953, on the fourth of July, Violet Sullivan disappeared, along with her little dog and her reputed stash of over fifty thousand dollars. Left behind were Violet's six-year-old daughter, Daisy, and Violet's abusive husband, Foley. Many people in the small town of Serena Station believe that Foley killed Violet in one of his many violent rages. Others maintain that she left with one of her lovers. After thirty-four years, Violet's daughter is still broken up about her mother's disappearance. Daisy has been divorced four times, and she feels that her perpetual misery stems from wondering if Violet could have been so cold-hearted as to leave of her own volition. The police have never been able to solve the mystery, so Daisy hires PI Kinsey Millhone to investigate this very cold case.

Throughout most of "S is for Silence," Kinsey repeatedly interviews everyone with information about Violet Sullivan, including Foley, who is now a recovering alcoholic, Chet Cramer, an automobile dealer who sold Foley a beautiful Chevy Bel Air that disappeared along with Violet, Liza Clements, Daisy's former babysitter, Calvin Wilcox, Violet's only sibling, and Sergeant Timothy Schaefer, who was the investigating officer when Violet vanished. There are red herrings galore to confuse matters, and Kinsey begins to think that she is wasting her time going over the same ground over and over again. One day, however, Kinsey finds her Volkswagen's tires slashed, and she realizes that she has struck a nerve. Someone is obviously warning her to back off. Could Violet's killer still be at large, and will Kinsey be his next target?

Grafton tells part of her story in first person, through Kinsey's eyes, and the rest of the chapters are flashbacks to 1953. This back and forth works well, giving the reader a perspective that Kinsey lacks. Grafton skillfully fleshes out her large cast of characters. She depicts couples stuck in marriages of convenience, businessmen who are anxious to get ahead if only they could get their hands on some money, and young girls with low self esteem trying to weather the storms of adolescence. The parts of the book that take place in the fifties are an entertaining exercise in time travel. The narrative that takes place in the present, which is 1987, for the most part consists of Kinsey questioning Violet's former acquaintances. By comparing everyone's alibis, recollections and opinions, Kinsey hopes that the truth will somehow emerge. The weakest part of the story is the conclusion, which is too abrupt and insufficiently explained. For the most part, however, "S is for Silence" is an engrossing novel about a small town's unhappy residents and their dark secrets.
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on January 7, 2006
A relatively new fan of both Grafton and her creation Kinsey, I whipped through the available "alphabet according to Grafton" in a mere three months and have been reading the subsequent letters as they have appeared beginning with "Q". I was so enchanted with the characters and the relatively low-tech mystery solving of the '80's that I even had my 90-year-old dad reading the series before he passed on shortly after reading the letter "E". (Not due to the reading matter, I should point out!) I provide all this background to explain why I bought "S" initially, and why I persevered with, and enjoyed, the newest book. My love of the P.I. and all the supporting characters who people her life such as Henry and his quirky siblings, the Hungarian chef, and the lovers who come and go, along with the small but homey apartment and the VW Beatles that motor Kinsey into and out of her investigations, make the series memorable. Although I enjoyed the new take on the storytelling whereby the mystery unravels for us in real-time 1953 as Kinsey is interviewing the suspects, friends, and/or family members in what is Kinsey's "today", I was quite disappointed at not being able to enjoy Henry's baking, or see Kinsey enjoy her latest romantic tryst yet still manage to remain independent. And I can't help but wonder if that "little black dress" was still in the backseat of the VW, just waiting for Kinsey to reluctantly don it while sweating through a formal gathering. I remain hopeful that Sue Grafton will give us more of Kinsey and her world with "T" and beyond, along with another engaging mystery.
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on August 17, 2006
Have to admit that I was also getting a bit tired of this series, but I couldn't put this installment down.

First of all, I liked the intercutting of other perspectives with Kinsey's (i.e., the flashbacks to 1953). I think these told you more about the characters than Kinsey could have, and I like that.

I also liked the fact that Grafton kept the reader guessing until pretty much the last dozen pages. There were 5 men with motives--all equally valid. But which one was capable of murdering in cold blood?

Also, Grafton intersperses this with the usual wit--and of course she can't resist giving a key character a long-needed come-uppance which left me laughing out loud. Justice is dispensed, but it only takes 34 years. But the point is that karma DOES catch up to you!

As for the complaints about small-town folk and stereotypes, well, I've lived in a small town as well as a big city, and sadly, in my experience, the stereotypes DO fit.

It's not great literature, but it's an engrossing and entertaining read. Definitely light and distracting fare for tough times.
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on January 5, 2006
I would recommend this book to any mystery fan or Grafton fan. I thought the flashbacks worked well for the story and broke the routine Q and A of all the central characters. Grafton did a great job of conveying a sense of the fifties from an eighties perspective. The characters richly drawn and detailed. Who didn't hate Violet, then love her and then hate her by the end of the book? Hell she was a con a she was conning me in the flashback. Who didn't think she was turning a new leaf with chet? Thats good writing. As for the complaints about lack of details in other areas of Kinseys life. I say read a Stephanie Plum psuedodetective gimmicky fluff piece and you'll find all that stuff. If it don't involve the PLOT leave it out. Kinsey Millhone is classic. Besides this was only five days in the life of K.M.
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VINE VOICEon January 7, 2007
While I would not put Sue Grafton in the top tier of mystery writers - a level I reserve for folks like James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly and Raymond Chandler - she is a consistently good writer. Her "Alphabet" series of novels featuring Kinsey Millhone have reached volume nineteen with S is for Silence, and once again Grafton has treated her readers to a clever novel.

The silence in the title refers to that of Violet Sullivan who disappeared on the Fourth of July back in 1953. With an abusive husband and a not-so-secret stash of money, it is assumed by many that she ran away, while others assume the husband killed her. Thirty-four years later, her daughter Daisy retains Kinsey to try to track her mother down. Daisy has been tormented through the decades by the fact that her mother abandoned her. Kinsey is reluctant to take the case, figuring Daisy is merely wasting her money, but eventually she is persuaded to take the case.

Violet was a beautiful woman and had more than her share of lovers in her small town of Serena Station; many are still around, and Kinsey's investigation opens up a lot of old wounds. Slowly, she pieces together the facts behind that Independence Day disappearance, but the key question - if Daisy was killed (and if so, by who) or left voluntarily (and if so, where) - is much more elusive to determine.

One of the things I enjoy the most about the Millhone books is that they seem much more in the classic style of private eye fiction that I especially associate with Chandler and Ross MacDonald. In these books, the private eye is almost a non-character who is thrust into the lives of strangers, but essentially emerges untouched by the case. Millhone has a bit more of a life than Philip Marlowe or Lew Archer, but she is essentially an outsider in the stories. Contrast that with more modern mysteries where the heroes are more intimately involved in their cases. I'm not saying that one way is better than other (it all depends on the execution), but the detached detective seems rarer today than it once was.

The only real problem with this series is that the stories (while enjoyable) are kind of forgettable after a while, and even when I remember them, I find it hard to link it with a particular title. Yes, H is for Homicide, but since almost every novel involves a killing, it's hard to recall what the story was about. That should not deter anyone from reading these books, but don't expect for it to have any deep impact in your life; it is a "beach read": fun and fast. S is for Silence fits right in with A through R and will entertain mystery fans.
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I have enjoyed Sue Grafton's alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone since the very beginning. As with all books in a series, some are bound to be better than others. S is for Silence is a nice rebound from the less than stellar R is for Ricochet. But while the book seems to be much better written, private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, seems to be missing in action.

Daisy Sullivan hires Millhone to discover what happened to her mother 34 years ago. Violet Sullivan was in an abusive marriage and was planning to leave her husband and daughter. But after not hearing from Violet in all those years, Daisy decides that she needs some closure. Violet was a beautiful and fun-loving woman, but she was also the town trollop. She had numerous affairs with the men in the small town of Serena Station, and any of them (husband included) could have wanted her dead. Millhone first needs to figure out whether Violet was murdered or just ran away without looking back. Everyone in this small Peyton Place-type town has their own theory, and the more she questions those involved, the more resistance she receives.

Grafton made sure that S is for Silence avoids the pitfalls that plagued R is for Ricochet. Gone are the lengthy descriptions that became so tedious. She also eliminated the many boring subplots that bogged down her earlier books. But also gone are Henry, Rosie, her latest boyfriend, Cheney, and even Kinsey herself. Missing is the sassy, smart and wise-cracking PI that we have come to know and love.

Overall, S is for Silence is a tight, well-written book. Half of the book is written in the first person. But interspersed throughout are chapters written in the flashback mode (from 1953) through the eyes of other characters. It certainly kept me guessing until the very end, and I wasn't even close to identifying the bad guy.

So overall, I enjoyed S is for Silence, but I would have enjoyed it more if Grafton hadn't totally changed Millhone's personality.
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on July 18, 2015
A haiku to start with:

'''as truth tries to flow'''
'''with silences or with shouts'''
'''roads open ahead'''

== Brief introduction ==

S of Silence is the novel number 19 of the mystery series called Crime Alphabet of American writer Sue Grafton.This is one of the novels of this saga that has struck me most when I read it. I was in suspense from beginning to end: Sometimes silence hides murky truths that need to be unveils in order to restore peace in our lives when we constantly feel the constant itch of being distressed. And to find the truth, sometimes it is essential to have the help of someone we can trust blindly.

I met Sue Grafton and ther Crime Alphabet many, many years ago, in the fall of 1990, when a friend lent me A adultery. Since then, this author has become my bedside writer as a thriller and mystery concerns, perhaps because I have great empathy for the leading role of the novels, a detective called Kynsey Millhone.

== Plot by Cay Oncena ==

July 4, 1953 Serena Station, a small town in California. Violet Sullivan goes out leaving her daughter Daisy with a babysitter. But she did not return, dissapearing forever without trace.

September 1987 Santa Teresa, California. Kinsey Millhone receives a phone call from a friend of Daisy to arrange a meeting between her and Kinsey. Daisy wants to know what happened to her mother (if she was murdered or fled in search for a new life, never to return, abandoning forever her and her father) and thus at last to be free of the weight of the past and bring peace to her troubled life.

Violet was a beautiful woman married to a violent man who abused her. In the village, some say she fled with her lover to escape the hell that had become her home. Others, however, are certain that her husband murdered her.

When Kinsey faces the complex task of pulling out the thread of the tangled skein of the past, he meets with the villagers distrust who see her as an outsider who comes to sticking her nose where dont belong. However, despite the 34 years that have past, the ominous silence surrounding the case and the difficulties Kinsey encounters along the investigation, our heroine is willing to find the truth at the risk of his own life.

== My thoughts about the novel ==

The background of this novel is the issue of domestic violence and the role of women in society, in the 50s and at the end of the 80s of the twentieth century. Although the case Kinsey investigates is located in rural California, there are situations that could well be happening today: the silence around the abuse, the false respect for something we feel does not concern us because these are family matters, the rejection of some men towards a woman that has a role they feel is best suited for them... It was wrong for a woman to go out and have fun because that was synonymous with promiscuity. And if the woman was married, it was even worse because people assumed that she had a lover. The situation is even more complex and complicated in a small town, as Serena Station, where everyone knows (and criticizes) the lives of others but when there are difficulties, they prefer to look away.

Another topic of this novel is the abandonment by the mother, and the consequences this has on children, in this case Daisy. With seven years, Daisy suffered a trauma from which she can get over, and that makes life go from bad to worse, especially considering that she adored his mother and always did everything possible to make her mother proud of her . Although without deepening in the subject, the is also the issue of relationships between young women and divorced men that at that time and in towns like Serena Station, were not well regarded since it was felt that the man in question was simply looking for someone to pass the time.

The many characters that populate this novel are well built and it is worth discovering them throughout history. One or two sentences are enough to get an idea of the personality of each and all of them, you can say they are co-stars and play an important role in the development of the narrative, even if it is small. From Daisy, the daughter of Violet, who wants to end with the troubles in her life knowing once and for all what happened to his mother; Foley his father, an alcoholic and violent man who stopped drinking following the disappearance of his wife and now works as an attendant at the local church; Liza , the babysitter of Daisy when her mother disappeared; Kathy , friend of Liza and daughter of Chet , the car salesman who lent Violet the Chevrolet in which he disappeared; Jake, friend and confidant of Violet, owner of the Blue Moon bar and father of Tannie one of the best friends of Daisy and who gives her the push to hire Kinsey; Tom , a troubled husband whose marriage is maintained by the money from his wife, but you are looking for a way out ...

The story takes place over five intense days, during which Kinsey must break the wall of silence that has formed around to find out what happened actually Violet Sullivan without getting killed on the process, since his research reveals a past that is too disturbing for some people. Chapters located in the present time are narrated by Kinsey while the chapters explaining the past are described in omniscient. In both cases, the story contains many dialogues that allow better understanding of both, the characters and the events that unfold. The style is sober, without frills, without metaphors, with a perfect balance between dialogue and narration. And, despite the temporal leaps in time the main story thread or subthreads can be followed perfectly well. The flashback chapters introduce the different characters that populate the story, making a portrait of each of them while describing his relationship with Violet and what they really think of her. Thus, the past is what allows the reader to understand the present and Kinsey, tie up all the loose ends that allow her to solve the case and end once and for all the malicious rumors of the local people and the suffering of Daisy, freeing her to rebuild her battered live.

== Conclusion ==

S of Silence is a novel which I enjoyed reading. It starts with a pace that might call moderato and for some time it is relatively easy to put the novel down and to other things, but without losing the intrigue and looking forward again to pick up the book. But as the novel progresses, the pace is increasing in intensity until towards the end the tempo is prestissimo. Reaching the final chapters, you can not stop reading. And in the Epilogue, the tempo goes lento again allowing our heart to recover and return to its normal rhythm.

I like the criticism about sexism and domestic violence . If in the 50s the situation of women was already difficult in big cities, imagine how it should be in a small village where a womans freedom was reduced to practically decide the menu and buy the odd quirk (one dog, in the case of Violet). Trying to be independent would often be misunderstood by people (including women themselves) and met with the aggressiveness of the abusive husband and false friendship of other men that all they wanted was a to have "a good time". The abused woman was helpless in front of people who either were deaf or justified the abuse on the grounds that the woman must have done something wrong to deserve the mistreat. This situation is perfectly portrayed through the characters and the stor. It is sad to verify that even thought the years have past, little has changed in this village where time seems to have frozen, keeping the sexism that prevailed then. I also liked the analysis made, through the life of Daisy, about the dire consequences for a child that a parent will leave her. And, of course, Kinsey is a woman who has all my admiration because its just great. To put a "but", a think the end of the novel is a bit hasty.

By the way, there is no need to read the books of this serie in order, but it is always best to do so in order to see the evolution of Kinsey Millhone and get to know aspects of her past and her life that makes you empathize with her even more and better understand her way of behaving and thinking.

I strongly recommend this novel, I am sure it will please any reader and, possible, he or she will keep reading Sue Grafton and her Crime Alphabet series.

(This review is a translation of "Haciendo sonoro el silencio. S de Silencio, Sue Grafton" by cay11; I am publishing this review here in so it can be read by Sue Grafton, who does nos speak Spanish, so I promised her to publish the review in Amazon in English)
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VINE VOICEon January 9, 2006
I thought that S is for Silence was one of her best. I don't think Kinsey was missing in action as another post mentioned. I think the author wanted to tell a good story not so much revolved around Kinsey and she did just that. I think Violet carried the story well on her own - she was most interesting and so were the supporting characters. A good whodunit until the end.
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on December 14, 2005
By now you've read the synopsis, so I won't belabor that part.

First, criticism aside, Grafton is in fine writing form. It's always great to get a visit from Kinsey, and that rates a 4 any day of any week on any book.

In this volume, Grafton breaks format a little; that is, like all Kinsey Millhone stories, this story is told in the first person; but there are chapters that drop into limited omniscient third person, deep in the past when the mystery was being set.

Now, Kinsey's strength has always been nagging the facts until they tell her a story. Here, though, the solution comes too quickly and out of thin air, to my way of thinking.

There are so many characters, when the mystery is revealed and dealt with I had to go back and re-read chunks of the book to remember who some of the players were. Further, when all is said and done, there is a brief epilogue in which Scarlett proclaims, "Tomorrow is another day," The End.

Sorry, that was GWTW, but the criticism remains. There is no post-mortem, no revelation of why things happened as they did. There are as many loose threads at the end as there were before the book started.

If you've never read Grafton before, I truly suggest you start with A is for Alibi. Work your way to S; the journey is worth it.
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