X

X” by Sue Grafton

c.2015, Putnam
$28.95 / $34.95 Canada
403 pages

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

The months spent with your ex are better forgotten.

You don’t even like to think about them, in fact, and you rarely discuss them. That’s all in the past now, and best that it stay that way. Or is it?  What if lessons learned from your ex back then can save the life of someone today?  In the new book “X” by Sue Grafton, recovered memorabilia leads to an eXtra disturbing discovery.

Ruthie Wolinsky was at a total loss.

Recently widowed when her husband was murdered under shady circumstances, Ruthie was trying hard to clean up his paperwork and get rid of junk. She’d hired someone for the latter, but the former was trickier – made more so by the strange call from the IRS, asking for receipts from fifteen years ago.

Private investigator Kinsey Millhone had once worked with Ruthie’s late husband and though she was no fan of Pete Wolinsky, she adored Ruthie and agreed to help. As she waded through moldering boxes in search of old receipts, Kinsey remembered that Pete had been secretive so she wasn’t surprised to find a hidden envelope and an odd code. Pete had obviously been working on a case that he wanted kept quiet; that intrigued Kinsey, who hated unfinished messes.

What else could she do but complete his case – especially since she’d been stiffed by a client who’d lied to her from the start? The woman said her name was Hallie Bettancourt and that she was looking for someone she’d put up for adoption years before. Bettancourt had paid in cash, but the $100 bills were counterfeit and so was her name. It hadn’t been a big job, but Kinsey wanted her money.

The code Pete had fashioned was easily broken – Kinsey’s landlord, Henry, loved doing cryptograms – but the names it yielded didn’t make sense. How could a woman long-dead be of any interest to anyone today?  And how did Pete end up with a few old pictures and a Bible from a lifetime ago? Better question: why did someone else want them enough to threaten Kinsey on her own turf?

My very first thought while reading “X” came to me long before I’d even reached the middle of the first chapter: there’s a lot of filler in this novel. Readers – even those starting this series from here (and that’s okay, by the way) – don’t generally need a paragraph on the ingredients in bread or on making coffee.

I point this out because the whodunits you’ll find in this latest installment from author Sue Grafton are classic Millhone, but the padding becomes a distraction after awhile. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that those pages could have been more mystery and less mud to slog through.

And then again, you’ve read Grafton’s other twenty-four books (A through W and short stories). Can you stand to miss this one, the third-from-the-presumably-last?  No… really, you know you can’t. This is the book mystery fans have been waiting for, and they may otherwise find “X” to be X-cellent.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.