Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ray's Reviews: Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton & Black Irish by Stephen Talty

Strong-willed, determined women abound in a pair of highly entertaining recent releases.

One is a collection of short stories, while the other is a debut crime novel by a best-selling non-fiction author.

"Kinsey and Me" by Sue Grafton (Putnam, $27.95) is an unusual book by the creator of the popular mystery series starring California private investigator Kinsey Millhone.

Grafton began the series in 1982, with "A is for Alibi" and over the last 30 years has worked her way down the alphabet. Her latest release was "V is for Vengeance." 

Millhone is a likable, quick-thinking private eye who's gotten involved in a wide variety of tough cases over the years, ranging from insurance fraud to murder. 

The first part of this book is a collection of excellent short stories that originally appeared in assorted magazines and anthologies, mostly from 1986 to 1991. 

A brief introduction explains Milllhone's creation, why Grafton decided to set her series in the 1980's and Millhone's unsual aging process.

Grafton's latest book will be highly appreciated by the legion of fans waiting for Millhone's next appearance. 

After an informative midpoint essay, Grafton provides a revealing selection of fictional personal insights, based on her family relationships, in 17 shorter, much darker, mostly depressing short stories. 

The author notes "I wish life could be edited as deftly as prose"; the second half is ideal for those wanting to view another side of Grafton's talented writing capabilities. 

"Black Irish" by acclaimed historian Stephan Talty (Ballantine, $26) is a dark and carefully crafted debut crime novel that introduces Abbie Kearney, a Buffalo NY police detective. 

Kearney's investigating the savage murder of Jimmy Ryan, whose mutilated corpse was discovered in the basement of a long-closed church. 

The adopted daughter of a now-retired, highly respected cop, Kearney's been on the Buffalo police force for a year, after having problems as a cop in Miami.

Other related murders occur; Kearney's diligent efforts disclose unnerving information and dark secrets about the area's closely-knit Irish-American community. 

Talty does a fine job in creating strong, conflicted characters interacting in the bleak, decaying city of Buffalo. 

This compelling, brooding tale is the first in a series; Talty's hard at work on a sequel, with Kearney delving into a new, complicated case.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

Find books by great local authors (and more!)
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on March 10, 2013.

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