FIction: “G” is for Gumshoe

And finally, more than a year after the last entry, I come to G is for Gumshoe. G is, quite simply, one of my favorite books of all time. But not in the ways you may think. For instance, the writing in G isn’t any better than any other mystery Kinsey embarks on; nor is the plot that surprising, terrifying, or different. When I reread G (and this read was, like, number 5, I believe), I am immediately transported back to when I read it the first time. This book — for me, at least — is a highway to nostalgia, when I was first allowed to read “grown-up books.”

Oh shit, Pandora started playing early Cranberries. Talk about nostalgia!

Anyway. The plot first. It’s Kinsey’s birthday, and a woman named Irene Gersh hires her to find her mother, Agnes Grey. Oh, I haven’t mentioned previously: Ms. Grafton always — always — names one of her characters with the letter in the series. Anyway, as Kinsey’s taking that case, an old work acquaintance calls her up and tells her that some guy she helped put in jail is getting out, and also, he has put a hit out on her. Kinsey, not believing it for a second (and hearing that the perp only paid someone fifteen hundred dollars for whacking her makes it even less believable), goes on her merry way to the Salton Sea near Death Valley to look for Agnes. She finds her in a hospital, disoriented and scared. As she arranges for Agnes to be transported back to Santa Theresa, a big red pickup truck runs her off the road, and then the driver comes at her with a tire iron and attempts to kill her. When a random dude drives by, the assassin gets in his truck and hightails it out of there.

Kinsey calls a former private detective, now in the security business, to come and act as her security detail slash bodyguard. Mr. Robert Dietz – known as Dietz throughout the novel, as Kinsey can’t always be personal enough to use first names – finds her in the Mojave and brings her back to Santa Theresa. Agnes comes back, then goes missing again, then ends up in the hospital, and then (SPOILER ALERT) she dies. Meanwhile, Kinsey and Dietz avoid death a couple of times. In the end, there’s another mystery around Agnes, but I don’t really want to talk about that, and Dietz and Kinsey have a small relationship until Dietz leaves town for a job.

When I first read G is for Gumshoe, I think I was either twelve or thirteen. I was at the age where I was getting bored with my Nancy Drews and my Trixie Beldens (RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU READ THOSE), and my mother suggested the Sue Grafton series. I can’t remember if she’d read them before (“vetted,” if you will) or if she just thought they were more grown-up. But she directed me to the Mystery section in the Curtis Memorial Library and said, “Sure, those’ll be fine.” I still remember the light that was shining down that day. The bookcase was one of the shorter ones, so I had to stoop slightly to pick up B is for Burglar and G is for Gumshoe.

Why those two, you ask, seeing as how I am notorious for being a completist when it comes to series? “But Alaina,” you query: “You’ve always read a series in order, to the point where you had like, three copies of the same list on two different computers (and one hand-written) that ensures you always knew the order in which a series went [this was before Goodreads, obviously]. Why did you start with ‘B’ and skip ahead to ‘G’ when clearly, the alphabet gives you the perfect order?”

Because those were the only two available at the time, jackass.

So anyway. I read B is for Burglar, and liked it, and then I read G is for Gumshoe. And while the plot was good, but no twistier than in B, and while the characters were good — again, no better than in B, the whole plot about the tough chick needing the help of a man and yet resisting it every step of the way until they finally consummate their relationship …

Yeah. No wonder I’m fucked up romantically.

Because dudes, this was the first time I’d read a sex scene that wasn’t flowery in nature. I kid you not, from the first smoldering look to Kinsey waking up alone in bed to the smell of coffee being made in the morning, the whole scene is no more than five hundred words. Put into perspective? I’ve written three hundred more words in this entry than are in the sex scene.

But — and Mom, if you’re reading this? Maybe turn away or something? — it was hot. And even now, I-don’t-want-to-think-how-many-years-it’s-been-later, it’s still hot. It’s written in vague enough terms that we can let our imagination wander, yet doesn’t do the stupid “fade to black” thing that Stephenie Meyer did in her stupid highly anticipated (but not by me!) sex scene. It was sex between adults, not sex between some flirty flibbertigibbet and her male suitor. It was “wham, bam, thank you ma’am, now let me make you some coffee and later feel you up in a library” sex.

And it all happened on a spiral staircase. Which is yet another reason why I love spiral staircases. (Another being the long scene in Sleeping Beauty where she follows the bright light up the tower stairs to prick her finger on the spinning wheel. I mean, come on – that is a beautifully drawn sequence. And I’ve always loved that movie.)

But the best part about the relationship between Kinsey and Dietz — it doesn’t affect their working relationship. It doesn’t change the power balance. Kinsey maintains her independence; she just now has someone else watching her back if she can’t see it. She doesn’t become some simpering, sex-crazed woman; she is still able to function and work independent of Dietz. And at the tender age of twelve, it was here that I first saw that men and women could have sexual relations and not end up with a wedding or someone lovesick. Ever since that first reading, Kinsey Millhone has shone as a female role model for me, and I don’t think that will ever change.

Grade for “G” is for Gumshoe: 4 stars


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