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"S" is for Silence (A Kinsey Millhone Mystery, Book 19) Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 469 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kinsey Millhone has kept her appeal by being distinctive and sympathetic without craving center stage. While some mysteries that provide the PI's shoe size or most despised food create a forced and intrusive intimacy, a master like Grafton makes the relationship relaxed and reassuring. Millhone's life is modest and familiar, though her love life, now featuring police detective Cheney Phillips, tends to be oddly remote. This 19th entry (after 2004's R Is for Ricochet) adopts a new convention: Millhone's customary intelligent and occasionally self-deprecating first-person reportage is interrupted by vignettes from the days surrounding the Fourth of July, 34 years earlier, when a hot-blooded young woman named Violet Sullivan disappeared. Violet's daughter, Daisy, who was seven at the time, hires Millhone to discover her mother's true fate. Violet had toyed with every man in town at one time or another, so there's no shortage of scandalous secrets and possible suspects. Constant revelations concerning several absorbing characters allow a terrific tension to build. However, the utterly illogical and oddly abrupt ending undermines what is otherwise one of the stronger offerings in this iconic series. One million first printing; Literary Guild, BOMC and Mystery Guild main selection. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Grafton's determined march through the criminal alphabet puts readers within striking distance of the end, a destination no Grafton fan wants to reach. The latest in the lexicon should really be C Is for Cold Case, since it involves a disappearance that took place nearly 35 years in the past. (Although the alphabet keeps progressing, Grafton's heroine, Kinsey Millhone, is still in her late 30s and, given her high-fat eating habits, probably wouldn't have survived to be a sleuth in her 60s.) The daughter of a really neglectful mother (who could have starred in I Is for Issues) has been haunted by her mother's disappearance from a Fourth of July celebration when the daughter was only three years old. Part of the intrigue from this case comes from Grafton's sensitive portrayal of the psychological consequences of neglect. Boldly departing from the conventions of victim fiction, Grafton portrays the daughter as sniveling and annoying as well as desperate. Millhone doesn't have much hope for the case but starts digging (it's fascinating in itself to see how Millhone flounders and flounders until she finds a crack in the case). Grafton juxtaposes flashbacks to 1953, when the mother disappeared, with the current investigation, giving different points of view on the woman. Although she gives us a bit too much of Millhone's eating and living habits (probably in response to fan enthusiasm), this novel also presents strong character portrayals, a mosaic of motives, and a stunning climax. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; Reprint edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425212696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425212691
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (469 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

New York Times-bestselling author Sue Grafton is published in twenty-eight countries and twenty-six languages--including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. Books in her alphabet series, begun in 1982, are international bestsellers with readership in the millions. And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Grafton has earned new respect for the mystery form. Readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling prowess. She has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America (2009) and is a recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award (2004).

Sue Grafton has been married to Steve Humphrey for more than thirty years, and they divide their time between Montecito, California, and Louisville, Kentucky, where she was born and raised. Grafton, who has three children and four grandchildren, loves cats, gardens, and good cuisine.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Solving a cold case is extremely challenging for a detective. Writing about solving a cold case is even tougher. You can easily get so caught up in unraveling the tattered mystery that you bore your readers silly. A particularly tricky task is to make readers care.

Sue Grafton has written one of the most satisfying cold case stories that I've ever read. She makes the missing person, Violet Sullivan, both sympathetic and off-the-wall. At the same time, Ms. Grafton shows how an unsolved disappearance leaves everyone who cared about the person wounded to the core. They are victims too. In the case of S Is for Silence, some of the victims are more sympathetic than others . . . but they are all interesting.

The book mainly succeeds because Ms. Grafton creates an interesting series of characters and plot interactions both in her flashback chapters and in her development of Kinsey's investigation.

Ms. Grafton wisely keeps the investigation short. The mystery is unraveled in five days. To have strung the investigation out would have made the book boring, in my judgment. I was very impressed to find that the flashback information wasn't a direct hint as to how Kinsey would solve the mystery. She followed her own unique path.

Those who like to focus on Kinsey and her life as a single woman won't find this book very satisfying. The cold case is the story. Kinsey's friends and family have barely cameo roles in this book.

For those who like a classic missing person's story against the backdrop of volatile relationships in a small California town, this book will, however, be the right stuff.
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