Review: S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

 A real page-turner of a mystery

In July 1953 Violet Sullivan, a local good-time girl living in Serena Station, California, drives off in her brand new Chevy, leaving behind her husband and young daughter, Daisy.  Violet is never seen again.

Thirty-five years later, Daisy wants closure.

Reluctant to open such an old, cold case, Kinsey Millhone agrees to spend five days investigating, believing at first that Violet simply moved on to pastures new.  But a lot of people shared a past with Violet, one that some are still desperate to keep hidden.  And in a town as close-knit as Serena there aren’t many places to hide when things turn vicious …

S is for Silence is the nineteenth novel in Sue Grafton’s “alphabet” series, featuring her female PI, Kinsey Millhone.  The story is told from two points in time: 1953, when Violet goes missing, and 1987 when Kinsey picks up the investigation.

Grafton uses the two time points to great effect – showing the reader what life was like for Violet before her disappearance, the community she lived in, and the things that where troubling her.  She shows Violet through the eyes of different characters, and we see not only the ‘good-time’ aspects of Violet’s life, but also how the web of relationships she’d become entangled in could provide a motive for several people to wish her gone.

With the interconnected 1987 story, the reader is able to see how the years have changed (or not) the characters from 1953, and as the story progresses it becomes clear that several characters aren’t as honest and truthful as they’d like Kinsey to believe. For me, this ‘insider knowledge’ added to the feeling of suspense.

The story moves at a quick pace and I found myself compelled to keep on reading. The element of mystery, of not knowing if Violet (and her little dog) had run away, or if something more sinister had occurred, was key to this.  As a reader, I wanted to figure out the puzzle along with Kinsey. And if something bad had happened to Violet, I wanted to work out who had done it and how.

I found Kinsey Millhone is a sassy, dynamic character. Riding shotgun as she worked the case, and watching her dealing with the situations and people she encounters with her practical, non-nonsense approach, was fun.

This book is not as noir as I would usually read.  But that said, it’s an interesting and cleverly told story that kept me interested and turning the pages right to the end.

Recommended.

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