A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

February 27, 2014

a for alibi Plot summary (from the publisher): A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

Eight years ago, Nikki Fife was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer.

If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer—and sharper—than she imagined.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • Kinsey Millhone seems like a decent character. I wasn’t overly impressed by her, but she didn’t have any traits that totally annoyed me, either. She came off as a less humorous Stephanie Plum (though I’m not sure which character predates the other).
  • I liked that Grafton allowed Kinsey to have some flaws. She was at least indirectly responsible for getting that blackjack dealer killed, and rightly beat herself up over the fact. Kinsey is not an always right, my way or the highway kind of investigator. She will make mistakes — and hopefully learn from them.
  • While SoCal isn’t the most original setting for a mystery series, I like this choice. Many of the landmarks are familiar (even to someone who has never actually been there) and there are tons of possibilities for future plots.


  • I hated everything having to do with Kinsey’s sex life. First, how utterly trite that the guy she starts sleeping with (in the middle of her investigation, no less) ends up being the killer. Give me a break. Second, I really did not need to read the somewhat graphic description of what those two did in bed. If I wanted crap like that, I’d pick up a Harlequin. I truly hope this isn’t going to be a recurring theme.
  • The insurance fraud case just seemed completely unnecessary. What was the point of that? Just to show us that Kinsey had other cases/sources of income? Meh. Boring.
  • What was up with all those mentions of jogging? Sure, tell us once or twice that Millhone runs, just to let us know that she exercises and is in relatively good taste. But bringing it up throughout the book felt as superfluous as telling us that Kinsey brushes her teeth before bed every night.
  • The main mystery wasn’t very interesting. It should have been, what with the client having served 8 years for a murder she didn’t commit. But the result was actually rather bland.
  • Rating:

    I’ve been wanting to try Sue Grafton’s alphabet series for years, and finally got around to it. While A is for Alibi hardly knocked my socks off, it wasn’t all that bad. I’m willing to give the author a few more looks.

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