I don’t remember when I started reading Sue Grafton’s alphabet series mysteries but it was probably the early 2000s. Her genre was not labeled as a “cozy mystery” but it has all the elements that I love about cozies. Kinsey Milhone is an independent private investigator in a small coastal town north of Los Angeles. She’s basically celibate although there are the occasional non-detailed romances. She has been known to cuss, but Grafton references it as a background fact without details. All in all, basically good mysteries in a G-rated setting.
There are only 25 books in the alphabet series unfortunately because Sue Grafton passed away from cancer before “Z” was published. Her writing spanned 1982 when A is for Alibi became the first in the series to Y is for Yesterday, published in 2017. What I find really fascinating is that all of Kinsey’s adventures take place in the 1980s. So even though Grafton wrote through the 2010s, Kinsey is stuck in an era with no cell phones, big hair, and old-fashioned police work without the benefit of DNA analysis.
I discovered after getting hooked on these stories that I could peruse the thrift shops where I lived (Sacramento) and usually find one or two Kinsey Milhone mysteries in paperback. I had a list of all the titles on a piece of paper in my wallet and would cross them off as I got them. I was able to get A through V in paperback all except Q is for Quarry before I sold my house in 2018. In the last few years, I had also purchased W is for Wasted, X, and Y is for Yesterday on my Kindle app.
I only kept three sets of paperbacks in rubbermaid containers when I sold all my stuff to go full time in an RV. The ones I kept were the old Robert Heinlein paperbacks from my dad, all my Cat Who paperbacks, and the Alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton. I have since donated the Cat Who books because I bought all of them in Kindle form the last couple years. I still have the Kinsey Milhone books and am currently enjoying re-reading them once again. I’m on E is for Evidence at the moment.
Here’s the first paragraph in Chapter 1 of C is for Corpse from 1987.
I met Bobby Callahan on Monday of that week. By Thursday, he was dead. He was convinced someone was trying to kill him and it turned out to be true, but none of us figured it out in time to save him. I’ve never worked for a dead man before and I hope I won’t have to do it again. This report is for him, for whatever it’s worth.Grafton, S. (1987). In ‘C’ is for Corpse. Bantam.
Grafton is an award-winning author who has left us with a legacy of 25 delightful and engrossing mysteries. Don’t be sad that number 26 was never written but go grab A is for Alibi and begin the journey with Kinsey.