Sue Grafton: “Y” on Its Way
Oline H. Cogdill

 

graftonsue yisfor
Until a few weeks ago, the title of Sue Grafton’s second to last novel about Santa Barbara private detective Kinsey Millhone has been known only as Y Is for….

The mystery has been solved, and Y Is for Yesterday, from Marian Wood Books/Putnam, hits stores and reading devices on August 22.

It’s been a long, wonderful ride with Kinsey and company, and after Y Is for Yesterday, only Z Is for... is left.

The publisher describes Y Is for Yesterday’s plot:

“The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a 14-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state's evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

“Now, it's 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That's when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help.”

Kinsey first came on the scene in 1982 with A Is for Alibi.

Grafton has kept with that naming convention throughout with B Is for Burglar, E Is for Evidence, P Is for Peril, and so on. The only exception has been the singular X, which came out in 2015 and soon landed in the top spot on several bestseller lists.

That brings me back to Y Is for Yesterday.

For me, Y Is for Yesterday has a different meaning, as it seems like just yesterday that Grafton, along with Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky, brought me back to mysteries and set me on a career course I never expected.

I began reading mysteries when I was about eight or nine. I had pretty much read everything the children’s section of my hometown library had and wanted more—more stories, characters, more plots, just more.

That’s when my mother handed me some of her collection of mysteries she had read—many of them small hardcovers that cost pennies, or rather dimes, back in her day. Authors such as Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Frances and Richard Lockridge (Mr. and Mrs. North), Mary Roberts Rinehart.

And I found that more I was looking for. (To this day, I have never read a Nancy Drew or a Hardy Boys novel.)

But decades later when I started working I became disenchanted with mysteries. The stories were not speaking to me, not addressing my concerns. I loved the mysteries that were then old-fashioned but I craved more contemporary stories that I could relate to.

I remember sitting in my driveway with one of my closest friends and talking about reading. He mentioned he had heard about this new author who was naming her books after the alphabet. “A Is for Alibi is the first one,” he said. “It’s that cute.”

It wasn’t just cute—it was what I needed.

Although I had pets, owned my own home, and loved clothes, I still found a kindred spirit in Kinsey, despite her petless, vagabond ways and habit of cutting her hair with nail scissors and owning one black dress.

We were single women, making our own way, navigating a new world and reveling in being independent.

At that point Grafton had about six novels out and I began to binge-read. A few months later, I was visiting my friend Toni, who handed me one of Sara Paretsky’s novels. And I was off.  

The rest is, well, mystery-reading history.

Y Is for Yesterday. Y is for you, the reader.

 

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 03 June 2017 02:06