The idea behind setting myself a goal to read ten books from 1982 was to provide myself with some different types of books to read. When I set myself an A-Z challenge last year, I had to search really hard to find books for some of the letters, and it threw up some books I might never have considered, so I was hoping that this challenge would do the same.
I probably never would have picked up A is for Alibi had it not been published in 1982. I had heard of this series of books by Sue Grafton before, but it had never really taken my fancy. When I realised that it fit into this challenge, and it was the first book in the series, I thought maybe that I would enjoy it enough to continue with the rest of the books. I was wrong!
Grafton introduces her private detective protagonist, Kinsey Milhone, in A is for Alibi. She is hired by a Nikki, a woman fresh out of prison, accused and convicted of poisoning her husband, but always maintaining her innocence. Now she has been released on parole, she wants Kinsey to take a new look into the case, and prove that innocence.
Kinsey is a hard character to connect with. Maybe this is just because this is her first outing, and perhaps she becomes more fleshed out as the series goes on. But here she is presented as a strong, independent woman, but aside from a bit of fighting, we aren’t really given an opportunity to see that. She fails at any point to elicit any sympathy or empathy from me, because she doesn’t show any emotion for the vast majority of the book. Even when she is embarking on a relationship of sorts, we don’t really get to know how she feels about the man.
The writing wasn’t really to my taste, either. There was a ridiculous amount of description, but not in a way that made you marvel at Grafton’s ability with symbolism or metaphor. It was literally just describing what was happening.
I pulled the coffeepot from the bottom of the file cabinet and filled it from the Sparkletts water bottle behind the door. I liked it that she didn’t protest the trouble I was going to. I put in a filter paper and ground coffee and plugged in the pot.
That’s just one example of a paragraph that tells me exactly what Kinsey is doing, and how she is doing it. As a reader, I just don’t need this level of detail, unless it’s vital to the plot that I know from where she took the coffeepot and the water bottle, and of course, it’s not.
The plot wasn’t very special either; I guessed the outcome very quickly, and while I was hoping that the clues that I picked up on were just red herrings, they weren’t, and the killer turned out to be exactly who I expected it to be. There can be a certain amount of satisfaction in guessing the twist before it comes, but only if you feel you have had to work for it, and here, I didn’t.
Needless to say, this book hasn’t sparked in me an interest to read the subsequent 22 books in the series (Grafton is up to W in the alphabet), but it’s crossed another book off from my 1982 challenge!
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
First published: 1982
Three down, seven to go on number one of 32 Before 32 – read ten books from 1982.