For a long while, that list of Things I Don't Get included mysteries. I tried reading them; they didn't grab me. I gravitated to what did (science fiction, some fantasy, entertainment industry stuff like The Late Shift by Bill Carter). More recently I've dabbled -- here's why I tried (and wound up liking) Nora Roberts's first J.D. Robb mystery, and I've read and enjoyed my first Agatha Christie -- and then earlier this year I decided to try Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone books. Pulling from my parents' collection and beginning at the beginning with "A" is for Alibi. Because, hey, if I like them, there were plenty more where that came from.
That I finished "E" is for Evidence this week is thus a good sign.
As a lot of you know since you've read it, "E" is for Evidence ups the stakes in P.I. Kinsey Millhone's life in a way that hadn't happened in the series before. To be as non-spoilery as I can, she copes with the uncertain and, it turns out, dangerous circumstances in close to her usual manner. And I like that manner: rather deadpan, quietly looking out for herself when she suspects (rightly) that others are out to get her, being funny but not trying too hard to be funny, aware of her personal ups and downs and working to head off the downs at the pass, shall we say. And the series continues its deftly-handled touching on the events of the previous books. Millhone still has injuries and psychological fallout from what she mentioned on Page 1 of the first book.
By the way, here's one way mysteries are good for me: they're strong reminders that we have laws for a reason, and that there's the chance that seriously breaking one law might lead to plenty more breaking of laws, in more dangerous ways. OK, I won't do dangerous stuff! Though I'm sure you'd be surprised if I were doing dangerous stuff, especially the kind of dangerous stuff Kinsey Millhone investigates. ANYWAY.
Mysteries can still be relatively simple "plot engines," as I called them: crime happens, someone investigates, the crime-committers deal badly with this and cause escalating badness to happen, the crime gets solved before things run totally out of control. (A mystery ESPECIALLY should not end with "Rocks fall, everyone dies!") That can be a big part of making these page-turners work, though now I wonder if I could keep up with a more complicated mystery story. (If you have any suggestions, I'll take them.) I do understand that you want your protagonist to have flair, and quirks, and the stories to have surprising details. This series pulls that off. I had the feeling I'd likely like the series all the way back two years ago, when my parents mentioned Millhone's crossword-writing landlord, for instance.
Again, it's an especially trying story for her, this time. I almost want to dive straight into "F" is for Fugitive, to more quickly see how Millhone deals with this novel's fallout, but earlier this year I vowed to pace myself, Grafton-wise. Different stuff deserves to be read. (And for a time this week I was trying to read both "E" and Stephen King's Cujo, and my oft-tired mind tried combining the two so I concentrated on just the Grafton. Back to King now.) And as events get trying, Grafton gets a touch more eloquent. I especially appreciated this little description:
Being with him had brought back the pain in fossil form, evidence of ancient emotional life, embedded now in rock. I studied the sensations as I would some extinct subspecies, for the curiosity, if nothing more.