Book Review: X


Five StarsxI’ve been a fan of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series since I first read K is for Killer in the early 1990s and discovered there were ten books written before it for me to read. I went back and read them all in order and have been grabbing the new ones as soon as they are published. Grafton doesn’t disappoint in X.

I noticed immediately that the 24th book in her Millhone series doesn’t follow her naming pattern. The title is simply X, not X is for something that starts with X. The inside page explains it all, though I didn’t realize it until I reached the final page.

X: The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss. X marks the spot.

Grafton’s X is all of the above.

Three quite different stories weave through this novel. Contrary to what I expected, they are not all neatly tied together at the end.

First there is the mystery of Teddy Xanakis, the revenge-seeking ex-wife of Ari Xanakis, a successful and wealthy businessman whose generosity to the community ended at the same time as his marriage to Teddy. Why was she so eager to get in contact with a small-time bank robber recently released on parole? Does X refer to the Xanakises?

And there is the mystery of the assignment of Pete Wollinsky, a PI who was killed during a robbery gone wrong. He died before he had time to deliver a package he had collected from Father Xavier who had held it for safekeeping for more than 20 years. What was Pete’s motivation in hiding both the package and a list he felt compelled to encode to keep its contents secret? Does X refer to Father Xavier?

Finally, Kinsey and her landlord, Henry, draw very different conclusions about their new neighbors, Edna and Joseph Shallenbarger. Which of their conclusions were more accurate?

Grafton tantalizes the reader with these questions, allowing Kinsey to reveal her assumptions and conclusions along the way. But as is always the case with Grafton’s mysteries, there are twists and turns in each of the sub-plots, revealing unknown quantities, mistakes, crosses, and kisses. Assumptions are overturned. Behind each mystery hide even more mysteries.

I regret only two letters remain for Grafton’s alphabet mysteries. It has been too long since the most recent one, and I fear the final one will be here too soon.

• Genre: Private Investigators, Women Sleuths, Suspense
• Print Length: 512 pages
• Publisher: G.P/ Putnam’s Sons; Reprint edition
• Publication Date: August 2, 2016

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: X

  1. @breakerofthings

    I’m a very big fan of this series, although I must confess that I think K might be the last one that I read – so many books to read, so little time. This one looks as though it might be a lot bigger than the early books. One of the things that I have always admired about the series is the economy of the writing – there is a surprising richness to the characterisation and the imagery, but the plot and its advancement do not suffer as a consequence. Hopefully I’ll find a chance soon to catch up and see how things have changed.

    1. You know, I hadn’t thought about the length. My copy of X looks bigger than the others ( I have a hard copy of L is for Lawless in my Little Free Library stash), but I don’t feel it took any longer to read. Perhaps it is just that I get lost in the world and I don’t really want the story to end.

      1. @breakerofthings

        I think your review says 512 pages for X, which from memory would make it about double the length of the early stories. It’s a good sign that you didn’t notice the length and wanted the story to continue – I’ve read through the opposite situation, books that I’ve expected to enjoy and then felt that they dragged by.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: X – Caroline McCullagh

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