Grafton, Sue. “O” is for Outlaw (1999)
Henry Holt and Company, 318 pages, $26.00 hardcover
ISBN 0 8050 5955 5
In an introductory note Grafton explains to the reader that Kinsey Millhone time progresses at a slower pace than real time: “Since the books are sequential, Ms. Millhone is caught up in a time warp and is currently living and working in the year 1986, without access to cell phones, the Internet, or other high-tech equipment used by modern-day private investigators. She relies on persistence, imagination, and ingenuity: the stock-in-trade of the traditional gumshoe throughout hard-boiled history.” At least in terms of high-tech hardware Kinsey differs from her counterpart V.I. Warshawski, who, in her latest adventure, totes around a cell phone and a Palm Pilot, and uses a desktop computer connected to the Internet to dig up information with the help of electronic databases.
In “O” is for Outlaw Kinsey revisits her past when long-forgotten personal items surface from a storage locker previously rented by Kinsey’s first husband, Mickey Magruder. Kinsey married Mickey, a cop, when she was 19 or 20 and still a student at the police academy. The marriage didn’t last long: she filed for divorce when Mickey wanted her to lie to provide him with an alibi in an investigation that finally got him expelled from the police force. She would have divorced him eventually anyway, though, once she found out about his drinking and womanizing.
When Kinsey learns that Mickey has been shot by an unknown gunman and is comatose, she decides to find out what brought him to that fate. Her investigation involves looking into her own past as well as into Mickey’s. Along the way she finds that she may have been too quick to judge Mickey, too quick to walk away.
When she’s finally unraveled the mystery, she returns to the dying Mickey’s bedside:
After the rapture of love comes the wreckage, at least in my experience. I thought of all the things he’d taught me, the things we’d been to each other during that brief marriage. My life was the richer for his having been part of it. Whatever his flaws, whatever his failings, his redemption was something he’d earned in the end. (p. 318)
This is a kinder, gentler Kinsey than we’ve seen before. By providing such character nuances, Sue Grafton keeps fresh this continuing series.
© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown