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Y is for Yesterday (A Kinsey Millhone Novel) Hardcover – August 22, 2017
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Praise for Y is for Yesterday
“I’m going to miss Kinsey Millhone. Ever since the first of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mysteries, A Is For Alibi, came out in 1982, Kinsey has been a good friend and the very model of an independent woman, a gutsy Californian P.I. rocking a traditional man’s job...it’s Kinsey herself who keeps this series so warm and welcoming. She’s smart, she’s resourceful, and she’s tough enough to be sensitive on the right occasions.”—New York Times Book Review
“The consistent quality and skillful innovations in this alphabet series justify all the praise these books have received over the past 35 years.”—Wall Street Journal
“This will leave readers both relishing another masterful entry and ruing the near-end of this series. Prime Grafton.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Grafton once again proves herself a superb storyteller.”—Publishers Weekly
“The series may be coming to a close, but Grafton constructs an intricate plot following two time lines with at least a dozen characters in play while rarely slowing the pace.”—Library Journal
“The lively, engrossing...Grafton is in sure command of Kinsey’s wise-cracking but warm voice and of a many-layered plot that moves back and forth over events of a decade. Y Is For Yesterday might make you wish the alphabet had a few more letters.”—Tampa Bay Times-Review
More Praise for Sue Grafton and the Alphabet Series
“Grafton’s endless resourcefulness in varying her pitches in this landmark series, graced by her trademark self-deprecating humor, is one of the seven wonders of the genre.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Grafton is a writer of many strengths—crisp characterizations, deft plotting, and eloquent dialogue among them—and she has kept her long-running alphabet mystery series fresh and each new release more welcome than the last.”—Louisville Courier-Journal
“[Grafton’s] ability to give equal weight to the story of the detective and the detective story sets her apart in the world of crime fiction.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
About the Author
#1 New York Times bestselling author Sue Grafton first introduced Kinsey Millhone in the Alphabet Series in 1982. Soon after, both writer and heroine became icons and international bestsellers. Ms. Grafton was a writer who consistently broke the bonds of genre while never writing the same book twice. Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, her awards and honors included the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain's Crime Writers' Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bouchercon, three Shamus Awards, and three Anthony Awards—including the first two ever awarded. She passed away in December 2017.
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*Spoiler space left for those who don't want to read them. Exit now. *
It's hard for me to rate this book because I've been one of fictional Kinsey Millhone's fans since 1982. I've eagerly awaited every single " alphabet book" featuring Kinsey to this day, and it's heartbreaking to realize there's only one more, most likely dealing with the letter Z .
The reason it's hard for me to rate the book lower than 5 stars is because of the subject matter and the way it's handled by the author, Sue Grafton, a multi- award winner for decades and someone I'd truly love to meet. I respect her work, but I do not have a lot of respect for this book.
Briefly, this is why I do not have a lot of love for this particular tome in the long series.
1) It is not " true" to the other books in the series because this book has chapters of graphic sexual violence. I don't want tea and crumpets cozy mystery in a Kinsey Millhone novel, no, far from it, but I also do not want to have to read about a teen's rape and abuse and how a large group of people view the incident over and over ( same case, different characters talking about it endlessly).
2) Kinsey can't " remember" to take her gun with her even though a psychopath from an earlier book is clearly stalking her fearlessly.
It makes Kinsey look stupid, and she's NEVER looked stupid. It's Janet Evanovich's " Stephanie Plum" who leaves her gun in the cookie jar and makes a running joke of being in mortal peril and gunless.
Earlier books in the series did have some shooting in them, so I am not sure if this is the author's anti- gun statement built into the book, or a possible pro- gun statement since not having a weapon was bound to happen and put Kinsey in the climatic dangerous situation with a madman, or if the equally successful " Stephanie Plum" series gave Ms. Grafton the " oops, left that new gun at home" idea to the author. It's not cute, it makes Kinsey seem intellectually impaired. It's really sad to see a smart and street- smart character dumbed down after 35 years of gaining experiences in her life and career as a P.I.
3) There was chaos and disorder in the writing and in the scenes. First of all, the book is set in two time periods; We have 1979 flashbacks written with teeangers in loads of trouble, and the " current time" assigned to Kinsey of 1989. ( Keeping her cell phone free and with very limited Internet access).
However, while Kinsey was under- equipped in the electronics supplies in 1989 , the 1979 teen group had the ability to make a video, view it on their VCRs in their bedrooms, clean it up through the use of editing software in 1979 ( and I don't mean splicing film with a knife and some tape either but professional computer editing in 1979). Also, there's the matter of the professional quality video. Not one person remarked that the video was out of focus, blurry, amateur, anything of the sort, so apparently, it was much better than would be expected from 1979 equipment and the teens using it.
When we are reading in the " present time" of 1989, Kinsey could somehow determine that copies of the prurient video were or could have been made using hand held video cameras and a projector, while hand held video cameras of the type being described in the book didn't yet exist. The rich kids had them, Kinsey was viewing their copies. The book doesn't bluntly say the kids made the first set of copies, but the guy who tells her how it could have been copied was deeply involved in the storyline in 1979.
Another small example of the anachronisms which pepper this book is a reference to Kinsey viewing a small patio or lawn with moderate disdain. As it is described to us, it holds molded plastic lawn chairs. I remember when those admittedly tacky chairs were first on the market and it was in the next decade, the mid 1990s.
4) Another factoid in this book which didn't seem true to Henry and Kinsey's shared green space and Henry's gardening at all was the very frequent reminders that Henry, who is quite a dapper gentleman ( lest we forget we are reminded a few times in every single book with just those words, instead of his actions speaking for his poise and manners), completely abandons his beloved lawn. The book begins with the backyard being a large square of dirt and it goes way downhill from there ( no pun intended).
Kinsey didn't do any cleaning or talk much about her beloved nautical- themed apartment that Henry built for her years ago, and she's told us that she's wild for her tiny space, and is also OCD about cleaning. She doesn't clean except once out of necessity in the entire book, nor care about her apartment's jaunty crisp theme, and Henry doesn't garden. Great losses of endearing qualities. Henry gives his pristine baker's kitchen over to a very dubious person..
Both Henry and Kinsey didn't love the important things in their lives in this one book. Kinsey didn't find any personal joys at all, and neither did any of the other characters.
In summary, I found the book to need better editing for the many anachronisms. I had to take some breaks from reading ( a first for the series since around the "D Is For Deadbeat" book in the series) because of the really OTT violent sexual content that went on and on and on. I didn't feel that Kinsey, Henry, their friends, or the town of Saint Theresa were at all enhanced by the P. I. work that fell into Kinsey's lap in this book. The suspense, for me, mostly came from the reader's awareness of her level of unpreparedness to deal with a psychopath from her recent past. ( Readers of the series will remember him).
I'm glad I read it, as I am a completist about books in a series, but this 35 year relationship with Kinsey isn't really going in the ways I had hoped. Down through the years, there have been glimpses of Kinsey getting at least one fun friend in her age group, a nice guy or two taking her out, even a decent car in some of the books. Any of the above would have been a glimmer of light in this book, but no, none of it happened. No one made Kinsey's life any better at all, and to me, that is the heart of the series.
It's not about " the bad guys" as much as it is about Kinsey and her life after all these years. We long- term readers all know that time stands still in Saint Theresa, or inches up a few years in the entire series just to the point where cell phones and computers were extremely useful and affordable and stops short.
In keeping the e- data out of the equation, Sue Grafton keeps Kinsey " a gumshoe", not a " plugged in" sleuth. I like this quality and am glad it wasn't abandoned, but it did suffer greatly in continuity in this one particular book.
Edited on 12/29/17 to add a postscript on the event of Mrs. Grafton's death at the age of 77, following a 2 year battle with cancer. My sincere condolences to her many family members and friends, and to us, her readers, also. Most of us had high hopes for the last book,. which was to be " Z Is For Zero" but I have learned that it was never planned nor any part of it written by the author. Publication date was in 2019, and maybe she knew what we couldn't know about her illness.
I also learned that she never allowed any ghostwriting in her manuscripts, so there will not be a posthumous book featuring Kinsey but authored by someone else. What we have is all we will ever have. Mrs. Grafton, who started out in TV and movie screenplay writing, never wanted Kinsey to be a live action on-screen character, so there will also not be a movie or a TV show about Kinsey Millhone, P.I.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Grafton.
Your Kinsey, as well, rests in our hearts and minds.
Nearing her late 70s, Sue Grafton remains a master of the private eye genre. Y Is for Yesterday, however, is disappointing.
The subject matter is indeed dark and disturbing, involving an amateur porno tape and a high school murder. Worse, few if any of the characters are appealing. Even some of the old Millhone characters, like her landlord Henry, Rosie and the homeless Pearl, don't do much to relieve the darkness.
The constant flashbacks between 1979 and 1989 become annoying, with information repeated from several different points of view. Most of Grafton's books have Kinsey as the first-person narrator. In this one, supposedly the next-to-last in the series, Kinsey narrates part of the story, but large chunks of it use an omniscient or third-person narrator.
Kinsey herself seems to have lost some of her self-confidence and spunk that has made her such a delightful character. She's constantly fearful of another attack by the man who had tried to strangle her in X (with good reason).
I can't recall another novel in the series that I've enjoyed less. I can only hope that when Z is for Zero comes out it will take us back to the Kinsey Millhone we've known and loved. Grafton certainly still has the talent and ability to do so.
I do admit that the ending of Y Is for Yesterday is, for the most part, satisfying, so that gives me reason for hope that Grafton will wrap up the series in style.