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4.5 out of 5 stars
U is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series)
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
"Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall." -- Psalm 35:8

Masterful Sue Grafton deftly handles three timeframes in this story of love and betrayal. The "present" is 1988, the mystery's past is found in the 1963 through 1967 period. Her own family's history is revealed for the period of the mid to late 1950s. The artful Grafton moves smoothly from one time to another, much in the way that our attention can shift rapidly from observation to memory and back again. Rarely does she let the current day intrude into the earlier time periods with inadvertent missteps. It's impressive.

Were you ever fascinated by watching carefully lined-up dominoes be rapidly toppled, one after another, after the first one in the sequence is tipped over? If so, you'll love this story. The plot is built around that device. One action or event triggers another, and another, and so on until no more dominoes are standing. It's the most difficult kind of plot to develop in a credible way, and Ms. Grafton carries it off very well indeed.

As the book opens, the local police have sent Michael Sutton over with a story about having seen as a child two men burying a mysterious bundle about the time when a little girl had been kidnapped (who was never found, even though the ransom was paid). Sutton is convinced that the two events have something in common and is willing to pay for a day of Kinsey Millhone's time to check it out. A lot of what he wants Kinsey to do he could do himself, so he's holding something back. With her usual doggedness, Kinsey makes fast work of the case and helps Sutton locate the site of the burial. What will they find?

In the same way that a newspaper story about the old kidnapping triggered Sutton's memory, the search for the burial site triggers more unexpected reactions and events. And on the story develops. One little thing leads to another, and before long the consequences of secret sins inexorably reveal themselves with lethal consequences. Ms. Grafton does a superb job of keeping the details of who did what, when, and where mysterious until just before the very end. It's excellent plot-development sleight of hand at work.

Although Kinsey is a private detective, there's a lot of the police procedural about this book that will reward those who like stories about careful, thorough investigations.

The book's major theme moves beyond crime and detection to explore what makes a family. You'll naturally see more bad examples than good ones. At the end, you'll probably be re-examining your own family relationships.

Ms. Grafton seems determined to lift this series higher and higher by extending the challenges she addresses in the stories and the issues she addresses. Once again she succeeds.

Brava, Ms. Grafton!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2010
This is another great book in this series and well up to Sue Grafton's usual standard. As always, there are red herrings along the way, but the conclusion is completely satisfying. I like the way Kinsey is so tough on the outside but hidden depths are proving her to be softer on the inside than she would like to accept...
Buy it, read it, love it and let's hope Sue makes it to Z.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2010
I was pleased to reconnect with my friend Kinsey Milhone in 'U for Undertow'. Sue Grafton has created a community of people in these books that is totally believable and likeable. Each novel is as good as the last; the quality of the writing and plotting is top notch. I would recommend a newcomer to these books to do themselves a favour, buy the lot, and enjoy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2010
I am half-way through the latest Sue Grafton (I own all the previous ones too) and am finding it hugely entertaining, as usual. It is amazing she should have reached "U", but still has a few left which I hope will be forthcoming. She seems to limit herself to one a year, which makes sense.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This was a book club book and considering it is something like 22 in the Kinsey series, comes with good pedigree. And in the main Sue Grafton delivers on our expectations. This is a very well written book, the characters are brilliantly defined and the perspective of first person interspersed with third person narrative worked very well.

The trouble was the story. There was very little of it. Grafton spent so much time giving the characters flesh and bones but did very little with them. Nothing shocking happens, major story points are clearly signalled, you feel intentionally, and there is very little in the way of violence. In fact, considering the nature of the story, it feels like she veers away from it deliberately.

Which built the impression as I worked through the pages that Grafton's target audience is some way older than her main character's 38 years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This was another great book in the Kinsey Milhone series. The idea of solving an old child murder,was interesting. Kinsey finds out more information about her family and this is linked with the case. No mention of her relationship with Cheyney although there is interaction with all the other characters, especially Henry and Rosie. Thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 January 2010
At last, Sue Grafton is back on form with this latest in the Kinsey Millhone series. I've read them all from A - U (so far) and felt that 'T' was the weakest one with the author dodging the issue of Kinsey's background. It was good to see that 'U' is a much tighter story, well woven between the time-lines and that the back-story has finally moved on and in an unexpected direction.
Although you could read this story on its own, I would certainly suggest reading them all from 'A' first.
One thing some other people may be able to help me with - was Henry right about the dog? I read the book twice very carefully and couldn't see if that bit was ever resolved.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2010
I usually love Sue's books and while this one was ok. It was just OK. There is no real suspense or drama, no nail biting climax and no surprises here. There are too many co-incidences happening after the 21 years after the crime and I get fustrated by Sue's descriptions of everything, she never used to be like this.

Every single person has to have a full in depth back ground description has to be physically described, every room she enters has to be described down to the carpet pattern. She can't just pull into a car park, she has to indicate left, push the button and wait for a timed ticket etc etc it's a bit too much and I sometimes wish she would just get on with the story. I've read lots of books that don't need that kind of description everywhere.

The story was a little dull, not alot happens and I'm not that fussed about Kinsey's family drama's actually either so I was a little disappointed with this book but I've loved some of her earlier stuff so never mind. I hope the next one will be better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2010
very disappointed, i knew the outcome and who was responsible mid way through having read the book still have unanswered questions.

why was sutton accused of lying about when he saw these guys digging.... a lot of time was taken up proving him to be a liar and yet it seems that he did see it, so was it the date that was incorrect....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Reading U IS FOR UNDERTOW is akin to surfing in rough water. Your up riding the wave and all is going well when suddenly you wipe out, you find yourself in the water trying to stay afloat and find your board so you can give it another try. So it is with Sue Graftons latest addition to her alphabet series. It begins interestingly enough but somehow loses momentum and leaves the reader adrift in a sea of unanswered questions.

Set in 1988 but involving an unsolved kidnapping that happened in 1963 the story, for a time, moves smoothly between the two time periods. Then things start to fall apart. Characters are introduced, like an old P.I. named Hal Brandenberg, a young woman named Memory, and a carpenter named Shawn Dancer, never to be seen or heard from again after their initial appearance. (Perhaps Ms. Grafton has plans to revisit them in her "V' book). A few things are partially resolved in Kinsey's personal life like her estrangement from her family and her stubborn and somewhat childish refusal to see them. (After all she is 38 years old.....time to "get over it").

The grand finale is a bit rushed and as I mentioned previously there are several threads to the tale that remain unresolved (perhaps the reader is being invited to write his or her own ending.) One last question, "Who was the guy with the leaf blower and happened to him"?
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