Book Characters as old friends

by kiya@evpl on Tuesday, April 6 2010, 4:11pm. Viewed 1,056 times.

Long-running series sometimes grow a bit stale, but some authors are great about keeping their characters alive, growing, and interesting. I was lucky enough this past month to revisit three old friends.


Kinsey Millhone, the prickly PI from Sue Grafton's Alphabet mysteries, shows up in U is for Undertow, which came out late last year. Since Grafton started with A is for Alibi, it is clear Kinsey has been around for awhile. There were a few in this run where I was getting a little tired of Kinsey, but in the latest book, she is fresh and likable again, as she struggles with a long-cold case of a missing 4 year old girl. She struggles even more to adjust her ideas and attitudes about her own long-estranged family as she discovers that she didn't have the whole story before.

Kate Shugak, an Alaskan park rat, PI, and Native tribal chief is back in Dana Stabenow's latest: A Night Too Dark. Tensions are high as a huge new gold mine prepares to open within the park boundaries. It means great things for the economy, but major changes in the daily life of Niniltna. Throw in environmental activism, a suicide who won't stay dead, and there is plenty of excitement to keep you up until you finish the book. There are so many things I liked about this book: the mystery is great; Kate is learning to live with some peace and happiness; and there are some beautiful passages describing the short but intense growing period of Alaska.

Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator/psychologist in England between the World Wars, is a creation of Jacqueline Winspear. I really enjoy the thoughtful and deliberate investigations Maisie does, as well as the fact that she doesn't feel a case is over until her client is at peace with the answers. Winspear does sometimes withhold some of the information Maisie discovers for a "reveal" later on in the book, but that is a minor irritation compared with the magnificent characters she creates for us to meet. The latest book is The Mapping of Love and Death, and quite a worthy successor to the earlier books in the series.

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