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by Sue Grafton
Ballantine Books, January 2001
318 pages
ISBN: 0449003787

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One of the craftiest things that Sue Grafton has done in the writing of the Kinsey Millhone series is to be miserly about revealing information about Kinsey's past throughout the books. In that way, she keeps a part of Kinsey unknown to her readers. In O is for Outlaw, Grafton focuses on a part of Kinsey's past that many are very curious about, her first marriage to a cop named Mickey Magruder.

Kinsey is approached by a man who buys old auction items or abandoned storage bins and then tries to profit by reselling them. He has found a box full of memorabilia from Kinsey's early yearsăreport cards, letters and the like. Kinsey buys the box from him, and in doing so, opens the door to a past that she has long since closed behind her. When she was 21, she married a cop by the name of Mickey Magruder. It was an unsuitable marriage in many ways, but Kinsey only gave up on it after Mickey asked her to lie for him to cover up his part in a murder. In the box, she finds an old letter that provides Mickey with an alibi; and now she's not so sure that her hasty action of many years ago was valid. There's no way around it, Kinsey needs to find out if Mickey got a bum deal or not. There's more urgency to her search when Mickey is found shot and ends up in a coma in a local hospital with the prognosis poor for his future. Another level is added to the severity of the situation when the cops find that the gun used to shoot him was registered to Kinsey. Actually, it was Mickey's wedding present to her.

In her own dogged way, Kinsey investigates the entire incident, all the people associated with it then and now. As she does so, she has to come to some hard truths about herself and Mickey and the conclusions she reaches are fitting. As always, Grafton does a great job of building an interesting plot. However, I did feel that the pacing was off and that the narrative could have moved ahead more quickly. It felt as if the book were too long, that there was not enough substance to justify over 300 pages. Parts of the book really dragged and suffered from being overly repetitious.

I found it interesting to learn more about Kinsey's past. This is a series that has its ups and downs, but I've never found any of the books to be badly written. "O" is somewhat above average without reaching the level of the better books. The revelations about Kinsey's past make her character more vulnerable and interesting. In spite of all the issues Kinsey faces, she never loses her sense of humor. Avid readers of this series will not be disappointed.

Editor's Note: This is a review of the hardcover edition: $26.00 from Henry Holt, published in 1999.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, June 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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