I enjoyed this book for the most part. The writing doesn’t feel too terribly dated, in fact the only thing that really stood out was that there was no cell phones. The plot is your typical mystery. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you’ve read anything by Lawrence Block or Dashiell Hammett or John D. Macdonald you’ve read this book. Every chapter starts with superfluous descriptions of places you’ll never see again. The lobby of a goddamn office building was built piece by piece, word for word, only to have Kinsey pass through into somebody’s office. This is done twice throughout the novel, with two completely different locations. Why the bloody hell did I have to read four bricks’ worth of text only for her to step inside the office and never return to the fucking lobby? Huh? Why not just start the scene in the office? Because fuck you, that’s why.
The real reason is (and pay attention while I slap some insider knowledge on your asses), novels used to have to be between 90,000-120,000 words before a publisher would even look at them. This was SOP for the longest time. That’s why most of the cookie-cutter thrillers are between 320 and 400 pages. James Patterson, Dean (without the R.) Koontz, and Janet Evanovich, I’m looking at you guys. If Sue Grafton had cut all the unneeded bullshit in this book, she would have had a novel of about 75k on her hands, or around 270 pages. The easiest way to pad a story is with character and location description. A is for Alibi has some of the worst padding, too – the oft-used but never-read driving directions. You skip it. I skip it. But I must admit, as a writer, I still use it from time to time without even realizing it. Sometimes it gets cut, and other times it doesn’t, but I cannot complain about it here and not admit to doing it myself. Authors, if you want to give your readers a sense of place, describe the scenery, not the mile markers and street signs.
Damn… I went on far too long about the writing. But what is there to say about the story? Not much. That’s a fucking shame, really. I mean, I just read an entire book and I can’t really tell you one standout moment. I didn’t expect the naughty language (all the fucks were a pleasant surprise). I didn’t expect there to be a murder in real time. You have the cold case Kinsey is working, but someone actually dies while she’s on the case, and I didn’t see that coming. You have your typical red herrings and twists and… you know what? I retract my previous statement about me enjoying this book for the most part, because, FOR THE MOST PART, I’ve seen it all before from better writers. The more I write in this review the more I realize I didn’t really enjoy this experience as much as I just didn’t find any reason to stop reading. The writing is bare-minimum stuff. The plot is rehashed from old pulp stories. The main character, while I didn’t dislike her, I didn’t really like her either. I have zero feelings for Kinsey Millhone.
In summation: I was going to give it three stars because I liked it, but the more I think about the story and the writing the more this seems like just an okay experience. Weird… I’ve never changed my mind mid-review. At least I don’t think I have.
Final Judgment: Confused as to why I finished it.