Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kinsey Millhone, Recommended Summer Reading

(Delmar Lemming, like most of his neighbors in Santa Brigida, is laying low with the heat this summer and recommends reading a good novel. We have been working our way through the Sue Grafton detective series with its offbeat sleuth Kinsey Millhone. In case, you have never heard of her, here is a little biography to get you started. Happy reading!!)

According to Sue Grafton's wonderful thrillers, Kinsey Millhone was born in 1950. Her unusual first name was her mother's surname before her marriage to Kinsey's father. Kinsey lived with her parents until they were killed in a car wreck when she was five and survived in the car for several hours before she was rescued. She then moved in with her aunt (her mother's sister) Gin, who was the only relative still in contact with her mother, the rest of the family having disapproved of the marriage and cut off contact with her. From her Aunt Gin, Kinsey took on eccentricities, including a taste for peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches. In high school, Kinsey was a self-described pot-smoking delinquent. After three semesters at the local community college she realized that academic life was not for her and she joined the Santa Teresa police force. After two years, Kinsey decided life in uniform wasn't for her, and quit the police squad to become an investigator for California Fidelity, an insurance company. Eventually, she became a self-employed private investigator, solving various disappearances and murders, clearing names and dodging hitmen. Kinsey is short and weighs about 118 pounds. She has short, dark, thick hair that she trims with nail scissors. She has little interest in her own physical appearance. Her wardrobe boasts mostly jeans and turtleneck sweaters, though she also owns an extremely wrinkle-resistant "little black dress" for those occasions when dressing up is unavoidable. As a typical Californian, however, she loves physical fitness and jogs three miles every day. She is also a junk food fiend. She is hampered by a ringing in the ears, caused when she shot an attacker from inside a trash can. Kinsey has been divorced twice. Her first husband, Mickey, an ex-cop, appears in O is for Outlaw and her second husband, Daniel, a struggling musician, appears in E is for Evidence.

You could term Kinsey a loner, with no children, she lives in an extremely compact studio apartment converted from a single-car garage. Her landlord is an octogenarian, Henry Pitts, a retired commercial baker who enjoys crossword puzzles; Kinsey harbors a crush on Henry. Henry's family are of durable stock, his siblings all being well into their 90s. Kinsey has had several relationships in the series, beginning with Charlie Scorsoni, continuing through Jonah Robb and Robert Dietz, until the more recent novels in which she has begun an affair with longtime friend Cheney Phillips, a police detective.
Having lived for most of her life with very few family members (for most of the series, her "family" consisted of Henry and his siblings, plus the local tavern owner, Rosie (who married one of Henry's brothers), and generous employees in nearby offices), Kinsey received a shock when her cousin Tasha reached out to her. Meeting Tasha and her sister, Lisa, for lunch revealed they are very similar in appearance. Kinsey and Tasha form a business relationship in M Is for Malice.
As Sue Grafton points out at the beginning of O Is for Outlaw, Kinsey and her world are all based in the 1980s, a pre-mobile phone and computer era. So there is a certain comfort in living with people who are not always connected, characters who live more by their wits, perhaps. --- Delmar Lemming

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