Saturday, November 07, 2015

What is Sue Grafton's X For?

We loyal fans of Sue Grafton's long-running series of detective novels stayed awake nights wondering what her antepenultimate title would be.  From A is for Alibi to W is for Wasted, the titles have often suggested ideas for Grafton.  Q is for Quarry comes to mind, having been a "hunt" for the truth about a body found in a stone quarry. 

So would X stand for xenophobes, or maybe prescription drug abuse (X is for Xanax)?

Grafton's solution was simple and brilliant:  X doesn't have to be an initial to suggest myriad meanings.  Marks the spot?  Ten?  An unknown variable?  A chromosome?

Maybe because I was interrupted so often during my days of reading the novel, I'm left with a few strong impressions but no strong sense of a story, not even what "X" stands for, other than initials of several entities (a couple of characters' names, a firm called XLNT...).  We seem to have caught detective Kinsey Millhone in a bad week.   She falls for an elaborate hoax, finds contact info for an ex-con, takes marked bills from a years-old stolen art caper, deals with some parasitic neighbors, looks into a late colleague's unfinished business deals, and delivers a mailer packed decades before by a woman who may or may not have committed suicide:  all interesting, all resolved separately, none compelling.

I've recommended many of Grafton's other books on this blog (see my Crime Fiction page).  Not this one.  Grafton told in an interview how the alphabet ploy opens her to snarkiness, at least since a review was headlined, "B is for Boring." For this one, my capsule review would have to be Zzzz.  

1 comment:

George said...

I'm just catching up with your blog, after a few weeks absence. Impressed, as always. On Grafton, I've thought for quite a while that locking herself into the alphabetical order thing would eventually wear out, and, from your review of "X," I think I must be right. "Y" should be easier, I think; "Z," who the heck knows? And then, what does she do next? "AA," etc. . . ?