N Is for Noose
by Sue Grafton
published by Henry Holt and Sons
1998, 304 pages
Buy it online
There's something very reassuring about reading one of Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries. Fourteen books in -- we're on 'N' -- it's comforting to know that in an ever-changing world, some things stay the same. Grafton's heroine, Kinsey Millhone, is still funny and fallible. She's fun: still thin even while eating carloads of junk food and she gets to carry a gun. Despite these things, she's still very human. Best of all, she always gets her man: or woman, as the case may be.
He took the other woman's credit card and disappeared into the office, returning moments later with her receipt on a tray. She signed and took her copy. The two chatted for a moment and then she pulled out. The attendant went back to the office and that was the last I saw of him. What was going on? I checked myself with care, wondering if I'd been rendered invisible in my sleep.
Grafton's language is plain and anything but poetic. In fact, in some ways it is strongly reminiscent of the classic writers of gumshoe novels of the past: there is the familiar unrelenting pace as well as the somewhat cliché images and the cultural markers that make it easy for anyone with a familiarity with North American life to find their way around. But though the language is in many ways familiarly hackneyed, Grafton has brought the genre new life and style. Stylish hackneyed clichés, then, and polished familiar markers. Lessor writers might fail dismally at such an attempt, but Grafton pulls it off consistently: writing book after book starring a familiar detective in wacky, suspenseful situations.