It has been a long time since I read anything by Sue Grafton. Even though I had enjoyed the books that I had read, I just never seemed to get around to opening another one. I decided to change that and picked up Grafton’s newest novel, “X,” to check out was Kinsey Millhone was doing these days.
Kinsey Millhone does not need the money that the client offers and this seems like the type of job that offers a quick buck and not much else. Still, she agrees to meet with Hallie Bettacourt mostly because business has been slow, she does not really have anything else to do, and she does not like going too long without clients. She agrees to a fee of $200 to try to locate Hallie’s long-lost son, who was incidentally just released from prison, thinking that it would be a simple couple hours of effort. Kinsey also agrees to go through some old files and boxes to help a former associate’s widow get ready for an IRS audit. Neither one of these things seemed like it would take too much effort. This all changed when she found a padded envelope hidden in one associate’s boxes and when she learns that Hallie paid her with marked bills.
Now Kinsey finds herself busy with these two “small” tasks while a web of deceit unravels around her and the spider begins to descend in the form of a serial killer. What could these two seemingly unconnected things have to do with a killer, if anything? Only Kinsey can solve this mystery that spans years.
Simply put, “X” is a mess almost as if Grafton was trying to take the four legs of the letter and trying to force them into something resembling a novel. The story is extremely choppy and the different plot lines that Kinsey is digging into never really seem to come together. There is also a lot of filler in this novel, such as the many painful pages that Grafton devotes to water conservation that read more like lecture notes than a story, which makes it almost feel as if she was striving to reach a work count with the novel and needed to come up with content to fill blank pages. Her suspicion of the neighbors was more of a distraction than anything and the dialogue between the characters is sometimes excruciatingly awful. By the time the novel approaches its climax, I had reached the point in which I no longer really cared and just wanted it to end. There are some good elements in the story and the kernel of an interesting plot but it just never comes together.
If this had been the first book that I had read by Grafton, I probably would not give her the benefit of the doubt and pick up another of her books. In short, this novel is just not very interesting, the characters seem to just be going through the motions, and the storytelling itself is disorganized almost as if Grafton were trying to force the story to come together even though she is using unrelated plot threads. Since Grafton has a long history and I have enjoyed her novels in the past, this book is just a total misfire made even worse by the publisher’s blurb that says this book may be her darkest work to date. I am sure that there are dedicated fans of Kinsey Millhone that will love the book for nothing other than the fact that she is in it but that is reading the book with rose colored glasses. One can only hope that Grafton just was not feeling it with this book or had to cobble it together to meet a publisher’s deadline and that is the reason for this poorly written and poorly plotted novel. Since it is the 24th book in the series, though, one has to worry that the character may have just played herself out.
I would like to thank Putnam and NetGalley for this review copy. “X” is available now.