We’re now in the final week of Sue Grafton’s Vengeance Blog Tour, leading up to the November 14 release of her latest, V is for Vengeance. Ten bloggers are reviewing the last five titles in the Kinsey Millhone series, and I’m happy to reintroduce U is for Undertow to you by re-posting my review from two years ago when the book first came out.
After the review, you’ll get the ninth excerpt from V as part of the sneak peek revealed on the tour, plus links to where you can read the other excerpts and to a contest with a generous prize package from Penguin.
U is for Undertow Review
I’ve been reading Sue Grafton for a quarter century now, starting in high school when I found her books in the school library (I spent a lot of time there). I devoured the A through C Kinsey Millhone adventures like an ex-con having his first meal on the outside. Over the years the books were uneven, which is understandable with a long series, but I kept reading out of obligation, as if Kinsey had become an old friend whose imperfections I accepted. I listened to her tales even if she rambled a little.
I was thrilled, then, to find her latest adventure, U is for Undertow, utterly captivating. After only a few pages, I knew Kinsey was back on track and I could dive in out of pure pleasure.
The case begins when Kinsey is approached by a young man named Michael Sutton who suddenly remembers something that happened when he was six years old. At the time, Sutton attached no significance to the incident but, after reading a newspaper article about an unsolved 21-year-old kidnapping of a little girl, he believes what he saw were two people burying the child.
After Sutton hires Kinsey to investigate, the story moves back and forth between 1988 (Kinsey’s present) and 1967, when the kidnapping occurred. Grafton deftly juggles multiple POVs; besides Kinsey’s, the author doles out pieces of the puzzle from the perspectives of several characters who are directly and tangentially involved in the crime, painting a full-bodied portrait of each. The plot turns in unpredictable directions and though it might be obvious early on who did it, Grafton keeps you guessing about the why.
The case is complex enough to keep Kinsey busy, but she’s also grappling with personal issues after making startling discoveries about her past which destroy her long-held perceptions of certain family members. Because the books are told in first person and I’ve sided with Kinsey for years against the relatives who abandoned her as a child, these new revelations threw me for a loop as well. Kinsey won’t be able to change overnight but at the end of this book, she takes brave, hopeful steps towards what could be an extreme life makeover.
Nerd verdict: Strong Undertow will pull you in
Continuing down the alphabet, below is the ninth excerpt from V is for Vengeance. You might first want to read part 1 at Lesa’s Book Critiques, pt. 2 at Jen’s Book Thoughts, pt. 3 at Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White, pt. 4 at Linus’s Blanket, pt. 5 at Devourer of Books, pt. 6 at Kittling: Books, pt. 7 at BermudaOnion’s Weblog, and pt. 8 at Jenn’s Bookshelves. Reviews of books Q through T can also be found there. On Thursday, drop by Booking Mama, who will wrap up the blog tour with another review of U and the final V excerpt.
If you leave a comment on all ten participating blogs, you’ll be eligible to win one of three sets of the Q through U books, plus a copy of V is for Vengeance, courtesy of Penguin. US/Canada residents only.
V: Excerpt #9
The younger woman pressed the down button repeatedly as though to speed the arrival of the car. The elevator doors opened and two pregnant mothers emerged side by side, pushing strollers ahead of them. The younger woman pushed her way past them, and one turned to look at her with annoyance. Another shopper approached in haste and called out, not wanting the doors to close before she had a chance to get on. One of the pregnant women reached back and put a hand against the doors to stall their closure. The shopper smiled gratefully as she stepped in, murmuring her thanks. The elevator doors closed as the two pregnant women ambled off toward infant and children’s wear.
I made a beeline for the ﬁre exit, laid one hip against the push-bar, and entered the stairwell. I went down as rapidly as possible, dropping two steps at a time while I calculated the younger woman’s escape alternatives. She could take the elevator as far as the second ﬂoor or the ﬁrst, or proceed all the way down to the basement level, where the parking garage was located. If she realized I was on her tail, she might leave the elevator on 2 and take the escalator up to 3 again, in hopes of throwing me off course. On the other hand, she probably wanted to get out of the store as quickly as possible, which made the ﬁrst ﬂoor the obvious choice. Once she slipped into the busy mall, she could doff the white linen jacket and the red beret and hurry away, knowing there was no chance I’d reach the exit doors before she’d been swallowed into the crowd. I reached the second-ﬂoor landing and used the railing as a pivot as I took the next ﬂight down, mufﬂed footsteps echoing as I ran. Another possibility occurred to me as I galloped down the stairs. If she’d arrived at the store with an eye to a leisurely day of thieving, she might have wanted her car handy, with a trunk capacious enough to accommodate multiple shopping bags stuffed with stolen goods. How many times had I seen shoppers dropping bags off at the car before returning to the mall?
I rounded the landing at the ﬁrst ﬂoor and bypassed the exit as I sped toward the parking garage. I took the ﬁnal short ﬂight of stairs in two leaps. The door at the bottom opened into a small carpeted lobby with ofﬁces visible behind a set of glass doors. The exit doors slid open as I reached them and then politely closed behind me. I paused to take in the vast underground garage. I was standing in a dead-end bay, circumscribed by a short loop of parking spaces coveted because of their proximity to the store’s entrance. I’ve watched cars circle endlessly, hoping to snag one of these treasured slots. Now all of them were taken and there was no sign of backing-out taillights to suggest a vacancy coming due.
V may stand for vengeance in Kinsey’s world, but what does the letter represent in your life right now? Leave a comment and you might win a set of books!
For more information on Sue and her upcoming in-person tour, visit her Facebook page.