It's April 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's thirty-eighth birthday, and she's alone in her office catching up on paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy a beer, but Michael Sutton is twenty-seven, an unemployed college dropout.
He tells her a story. More than two decades ago, a four-year-old girl disappeared, and a recent newspaper story about her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her secret burial and could identify the killers if he saw them again. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the grave and finding the men. It's way more than a long shot, but he's persistent and willing to pay cash up front. Reluctantly, Kinsey agrees to give him one day of her time.
It isn't long before she discovers Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his story true, or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?
Moving between the 1980s and the 1960s, and changing points of view as Kinsey pursues witnesses whose accounts often clash, Sue Grafton builds multiple subplots and memorable characters. Gradually we see how everything connects. And as always, at the heart of her fiction is Kinsey Millhone, a sharp-tongued, observant loner who never forgets that under the thin veneer of civility is often the roiling dark side of the soul.
U is For Undertow is another installment in the Kinsey Millhone series. But, if you weren't aware of that going in, I could see how it may fool you. Because it's a Kinsey Millhone novel . . . with a severe lack of Kinsey.
This is due to the novel traveling back and forth in time between the 60's and the 80's and between points of view. You get the perspective of 4 different characters, including Kinsey. I had no idea how it was all going to come together in the end, because they all seemed like completely different stories.
It was a strange book where a lot happened, and it was fairly long, but it didn't really go anywhere until the very end. I understand having to lay down the full background and what led up to Kinsey investigating the case of a missing child from about 20 years prior, but I just didn't care about most of it.
I could have lived without McNally's perspective. Corso was interesting. Deboroah Unruh's was necessary to paint the story with how it played out. Had the novel just flipped back and forth between Kinsey and Jon Corso, I feel like it may have had some more life and would have been more interesting - much like for T is for Trespassing flipped between Kinsey and "Solana Rojas". And that book kept me on the edge of my seat, especially at the end.
There were just too many peripheral characters in 'U' that I didn't care about. Some of the chapters became a chore.
And again - there was a severe lack of Kinsey.