T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton. With a series that has been successful for as long as this one has, it’s hard for the stories to not blend together over time in readers’ minds. The characters, from female private investigator Kinsey Millhone to her landlord Henry Pitts to the irascible restaurateur Rosie, all seem familiar after twenty books. It’s like a favorite television show that you look forward to each week.
If you’ve never read any of “the alphabet novels,” don’t start with Trespass. You don’t need to read them all, but at least read A is for Alibi first to see how it all begins. The main adversary in Trespass is Solana Rojas, a con artist and identity thief who moves in next door to Kinsey. Rojas pretends to be a caregiver for Gus Vronsky, Kinsey’s elderly neighbor, who is recovering from a fall, but Rojas has plans to abscond with all of Vronsky’s financial assets and possibly do him physical harm as well. Millhone eventually becomes suspicious of Rojas and the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse is quite entertaining. As someone responsible for an aunt in an assisted-living facility a thousand miles away, this story plays upon all the fears of those in that situation.
I tried to think of a television show with a female private eye to compare with these books, but really couldn’t think of one in which the woman wasn’t part of a male-female team (Moonlighting or Remington Steele) or part of an official investigative bureaucracy (Cagney & Lacey or Karen Cisco). Actually, the on-screen detective Kinsey most reminds me of is Jim Rockford, living life down by the beach and solving crimes. But after reading more about the show, the similarities aren’t that strong.
However, in searching for some television comparisons, I did come across some interesting items for those that want to pursue this idea further. In her article, “Female Private Investigators – The Difference Between Fact and Fiction,” Marg McAlister has an informative discussion with Victoria Howard, an ex-private investigator, that shows how realistically Grafton presents certain aspects of the job. Isabelle Roblin presents an academic paper on “Nancy Drew revisited: female private eyes in contemporary American fiction.” And Linda Mizejewski has contributed a full book entitled “Hardboiled and High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Popular Culture.”
Also of note, it appears that we will never see Kinsey brought to life on either television or film as Ken Fermoyle writes in his article, “Mystery Novel Characters: Often Miscast for Films, TV,” for the Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, “One role no casting director need worry about filling is that of Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s hugely popular female private investigator. Ms. Grafton, who refers to her 15-year career writing scripts for movies and TV as ‘doing time in Hollywood,’ refuses to sell screen rights to her books. In a talk recently she made that abundantly clear with this statement: ‘I would rather roll naked on a bed of broken glass!’”