Did you know that Sue Grafton conceived the story of the first Kinsey Millhone book on her own “fantasies” of murdering her then husband while going through a divorce?
Who is Kinsey Millhone?
Created by American author Sue Grafton (1940–2017), Kinsey Millhone is the main protagonist in the ‘alphabet mysteries’ series.
Kinsey Millhone is a former police officer turned private investigator. Twice divorced, she’s a loner, has no children and lives in an extremely compact studio apartment.
The story is set in the ’80s in Santa Teresa, a fictionalized town based on Santa Barbara, California.
Kinsey Millhone Books in Order:
This one is one of the easy one to follow, if you know your alphabet! 🙂
- A is for Alibi – Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. Eight years ago, Nikki Fife was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.
- B is for Burglar – P.I. Kinsey Millhone is reluctant to take on the case of locating Beverly Danziger’s sister Elaine Boldt. It’s a small matter that Beverly should be able to handle herself. So why is she enlisting Kinsey’s services? Beverly claims she needs Elaine’s signature on some documents so that she can collect a small inheritance. But the whole affair doesn’t sit well with Kinsey.
- C is for Corpse – It’s one of Kinsey Millhone’s toughest cases yet. Twenty-three-year-old Bobby Callahan is lucky to be alive after a car forced his Porsche over a bridge and into a canyon. The crash left Bobby with a clouded memory. But he can’t shake the feeling it was no random accident and that he’s still in danger…
- D is for Deadbeat – When Alvin Limardo walks into P.I. Kinsey Millhone’s office, she smells bad news. He wants Kinsey to deliver $25,000. The recipient: A fifteen-year-old boy. It’s a simple matter. So simple that Kinsey wonders why he doesn’t deliver the money himself. But with rent due, Kinsey accepts Limardo’s retainer against her better judgment…
- E is for Evidence – It all begins with a $5,000 deposit made into Kinsey Millhone’s bank account. Problem is she’s not the one who deposited the money. But when she’s accused of being on the take in an industrial arson case, Kinsey realizes someone is framing her…
- F is for Fugitive – Seventeen years ago in Floral Beach, the body of Jean Timberlake – a troubled teen who had a reputation with the boys – was found on the beach. Her boyfriend Bailey Fowler was convicted of her murder and imprisoned, but he escaped. After all this time, Bailey’s finally been captured. Believing in his son’s innocence, Bailey’s father wants Kinsey Millhone to find Jean’s real killer.
- G is for Gumshoe – When Irene Gersh asks PI Kinsey Millhone to locate her elderly mother Agnes, whom she hasn’t heard from in six months, it’s not exactly the kind of case Kinsey jumps for. But a girl’s gotta pay her bills, and this should be easy money – or so she thinks…
- H is for Homicide – When PI Kinsey Millhone’s good friend and colleague Parnell Perkins is found murdered in the parking lot behind California Fidelity Insurance, she can’t believe he had any enemies. The only clue that raises a red flag for Kinsey is one of Parnell’s files on a Bibianna Diaz, who appears to have made a lucrative career out of scamming insurance companies with phony claims…
- I is for Innocent – Five years ago David Barney was acquitted of the murder of his rich wife, Isabelle. Now, Isabelle’s ex-husband, Ken Voigt – who is suing Barney for her estate – is claiming the jury made a fatal mistake… Enter P.I. Kinsey Millhone, who takes the Barney case over from a former colleague … and comes up with more questions than answers.
- J is for Judgment – Wendell Jaffe has been dead for five years – until his former insurance agent spots him at a dusty resort bar in Mexico. Now California Fidelity wants its insurance money back. Kinsey Millhone is in for the long haul as she delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Jaffe’s life and death … and discovers that, in family matters as in crime, sometimes it’s better to reserve judgment…
- K is for Killer – In the ten months since her daughter’s death, Janice Kepler had joined a support group, trying to come to terms with her loss and her anger. It wasn’t helping. And so, leaving a session one evening and noticing a light on in the offices of Millhone Investigations, she knocked on the door.
- L is for Lawless – When Kinsey Millhone’s landlord asks her to help deceased World War II vet Johnnie Lee’s family find out why the military has no record of his service, she thinks it’ll be a cinch. But she is about to meet her match in world-class prevaricators who take her for the ride of her life.
- M is for Malice – Malek Construction is a mega-million-dollar company that grew out of modest soil to become one of the big three in California construction. Today, the three Malek sons stand to inherit a fortune, but in order for any one of them to claim his share, the missing fourth brother must be found. Now it’s up to Kinsey Millhone to find the man who, eighteen years ago, vanished without a trace.
- N is for Noose – Tom Newquist has died. A detective in the Nota Lake sheriff’s office, Tom was tough, honest, and respected by all. He was also a heavy drinker and a workaholic, much to his wife Selma’s distress. And now that Tom is gone, Selma decides to enlist the help of Kinsey Millhone to find the truth about what happened to her husband.
- O is for Outlaw – Kinsey receives a call from a random guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week, he bought a stack of boxes – and Kinsey’s name turned up inthem. For thirty bucks, Kinsey buys the lot and finds, among piles of childhood memorabilia, an undelivered letter from a long, long time ago. The old letter forces Kinsey to recall and reexamine her first failed marriage. It also sheds new light on a murder case gone cold.
- P is for Peril – Kinsey Millhone is mired in the case of a doctor who disappeared, his angry ex-wife, and beautiful current one – a case that is full of unfinished business, unfinished homes, and people drifting in and out of their own lives. Then Kinsey gets a shock. A man she finds attractive is hiding a fatal secret.
- Q is for Quarry – She was a ‘Jane Doe,’ an unidentified white female whose decomposed body was discovered near a quarry off California’s Highway 1. The case fell to the Santa Teresa County Sheriff’s Department, but the detectives had little to go on. After months of investigation, the murder remained unsolved… That was eighteen years ago. Now the two men who found the body are nearing the end of their careers in law enforcement – and they want one last shot at the case. Old and ill, they need someone to help with their legwork and they turn to Kinsey Millhone.
- R is for Ricochet – Reba Lafferty was a daughter of privilege, the only child of an adoring father. Her father could deny her nothing, but wasn’t there for her when she was convicted of embezzlement and sent to the California Institution for Women. Now, at thirty-two, she’s about to be paroled, having served twenty-two months of a four-year sentence. Her father wants to be sure Reba stays straight. It seems a straightforward assignment for Kinsey Millhone, but life is never that simple.
- S is for Silence – Violet Sullivan disappeared from her rural California town in 1953, leaving behind an abusive husband and a seven-year-old named Daisy. PI Kinsey Millhone has promised the now adult Daisy she’ll try her best to locate Violet, dead or alive.
- T is for Trespass – Kinsey Millhone’s elderly neighbor, Gus Vronsky is so crotchety that after he takes a bad fall, his only living relative is anxious to find someone to take care of him. To help, Kinsey runs a check on the applicant, Solana Rojas. It all checks out, so Kinsey gives her the thumbs-up. The real Solana Rojas was indeed an excellent caregiver. But the woman who has stolen her identity is not…
- U is for Undertow – Looking solemn, Michael Sutton arrives in Kinsey Millhone’s office with a story to tell. When he was six, he says, he wandered into the woods and saw two men digging a hole. Now, all these years later, he is convinced that he witnesses the burial of a kidnapped child. Despite her doubts, Kinsey sets out to track down the so-called burial site. And what’s found there pulls her into a hidden current of deceit stretching back more than twenty years…
- V is for Vengeance – Kinsey Millhone feels a bit out of place in any department store’s lingerie section, but she’s entirely in her element when she puts a stop to a brazen shoplifting spree. For her trouble she nearly gets run over in the parking lot by one of the fleeing thieves – and later learns that the one who didn’t get away has been found dead in an apparent suicide…
- W is for Wasted – The first victim is a local PI of suspect reputation, gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. The second is a John Doe found on the beach six weeks later with a slip of paper with private detective Kinsey Millhone’s name and number in his pocket.
- X – When a glamorous red head wishes to locate the son she put up for adoption thirty-two years ago, it seems like an easy two hundred bucks for private investigator Kinsey Millhone. But when a cop tells her she was paid with marked bills, and Kinsey’s client is nowhere to be found, it becomes apparent this mystery woman has something to hide. Riled, Kinsey won’t stop until she’s found out who fooled her and why.
- Y is for Yesterday – In 1979, four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate – and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace. Now, it’s 1989, Fritz McCabe has been released from prison. A copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help…
Kinsey and Me – Collects the nine Kinsey short stories published between 1986 and 1993; and the And Me stories, written in the decade after Grafton’s mother died. Together, they show just how much of Kinsey is a distillation of her creator’s past even as they reveal a child who, free of parental interventions, read everything and roamed everywhere. But the dark side of such freedom was that very parental distance.