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S IS FOR SILENCE
by Sue Grafton
Pan, November 2006
562 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330438883


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There can't be many crime fiction readers who haven't sampled at least one of Sue Grafton's 'Alphabet' series at some stage. I stuck with it religiously until about L or M, then drifted in and out thereafter.

It's always been a brave undertaking for Grafton – it’s not like you can dump the series partway through once you've made the undertaking to transport your lead character from A to Z!

The series has more or less kept its shape, although it has felt a touch formulaic at times (thank heavens Grafton has dumped the 'respectfully submitted' reports from the ending!), and there's never quite enough character growth for Kinsey for my liking. We learn little nuggets about her, but they're often ignored or glossed over in the next book (and yes, I know these books are supposed to follow on very quickly).

Coming back to S IS FOR SILENCE is like rediscovering a comfy sweater at the back of a drawer. This book takes Kinsey out of her comfort zone – if you can call the garage apartment that – and into small-town California.

She's asked to investigate the disappearance of Violet Sullivan, the town's woman of easy virtue. Thing is, Violet disappeared in her gleaming new Chevy back in 1953, leaving a good-for-nothing husband and a young daughter.

Thirty five years on, it's daughter Daisy who is desperate to know what happened to her mother. Kinsey's not keen, reckoning this case is beyind cold, but agrees to give it five days. It soon becomes apparent that the inhabitants of Serena Station have a lot of secrets that they'd like to keep hidden.

The plot isn't stupendously fresh –Marcia Muller's VANISHING POINT and Janet LaPierre's DEATH DUTIES both have a similar feel to them. But Grafton's a fluent and experienced hand who keeps you hooked. The final scenes are scary, if a little rushed, although there's a healthy dose of femjep there for those who start to twitch at the thought of it!

For those fond of Kinsey's landlord Henry, he's seen once, and boyfriend Cheney Phillips remains off-stage. If you work on the principle that there's little in the way of character advancement for anyone here, but that Grafton has presented us with another well-plotted page-turner, S IS FOR SILENCE will do just fine.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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