Mystery writer Sue Grafton died last week, shocking many of us who did not know she was ill. Her latest book, “Y” is for Yesterday, has only been released this fall, so she was very present on our minds. For people like me, I was pondering the how Grafton would write the final book in her Kinsey Millhone series. Would Kinsey die or end up finding lasting love? “Z” would generate great debate, and likely a bittersweet ending. I was not ready for the series to end, but last week it did.
Somehow I found Sue Grafton’s books, though I do not remember how. Likely, I was on the hunt for a mystery and somehow came across one of her books. I’m thinking that “H” might have been the current book, when I blindly stumbled across Kinsey Millhone. It was love at first read, I was hooked. With every book I loved the series more. In the last decade I have been fortunate to attend a few of Sue Grafton’s book signings. Listening to her talk about the series, answer questions about Kinsey, hear where she got inspiration, it was a treat. With the release of Y, news came that she was not doing any signings. I thought that was odd but I purchased the book anyway, and waited for the right moment to start it. It might sound funny that I did not instantly start reading it; rather, I waited until I knew I had some time and I was in the right state of mind to savor it.
Private investigator Kinsey Millhone was someone I could identify with. Grafton freely admitted that Kinsey was a version of her. Through the years I came to really like Kinsey, in fact I could identify with her independence, her comfort in being alone, and her general rebellious nature.
Grafton always said that Kinsey Millhone would never be the focus of a movie or television show. She refused to sell the rights. In death, her family stated the same thing, and went so far as to say there would be no ghostwriter to continue the series – not even to pen a final novel.
In Grafton’s passing, Kinsey Millhone is frozen in time, where she is at the end of “Y”. In a way, that might be a blessing, we won’t have to guess at how the series will end. Often, television series and book series end in a way in which we are disappointed and unfulfilled. Generally I avoid series finales for that very reason. I made an exception for Longmire. Although I wasn’t completely disappointed with the ending, the Longmire story left me wondering why he and Vic weren’t together.
Grafton was one of handful of writers that I anxiously await their coming books. I found her books have more heart than the other mystery series I enjoy. I will miss that. Grafton was a witty writer, giving the quirky nature of Millhone an observational voice that spoke for many of us. Millhone was a smartass, defiant, and very much her own person. She didn’t pretend and wasn’t intimidated by anyone. She didn’t care about style, had an oddball assortment of friends, and was very comfortable in her own skin. More than losing a talented writer, we lost a unique fictional character, and a friend. So long, Sue Grafton, so long, Kinsey Millhone.