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If You Like: Sue Grafton


Sue Grafton was one of the first women to enter the previously all-male world of hardboiled private eye mysteries. Her series character, Kinsey Millhone, who narrates the stories in first person, is a tough, stubborn, but self-assured loner.  Sadly, Grafton passed away in December 2017.  According to her family, “She [Grafton] was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV show and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y."  If you are missing Sue Grafton here are some other titles you might enjoy.

Paretsky, Sara.
Critical mass

Kinsey Millhone and V.I. Warshawski are both funny, tough private investigators. Paretsky, who started her series the same year as Grafton, writes fast-paced mysteries are her characters are compelling like Grafton’s. Set in Chicago, this series is grittier than Grafton's and doesn’t shy away from social commentary.  V.I. Warshawski's closest friend in Chicago is the Viennese-born doctor Lotty Herschel, who lost most of her family in the Holocaust. Lotty escaped to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport with a childhood playmate, Kitty Saginor Binder. When Kitty's daughter finds her life is in danger, she calls Lotty, who, in turn, summons V.I. to help. The daughter's troubles turn out to be just the tip of an iceberg of lies, secrets, and silence, whose origins go back to the mad competition among America, Germany, Japan and England to develop the first atomic bomb. After Grafton, Paretsky is my personal favourite and one of her early books even mentions Kinsey Millhone! Be sure to read all the books in the series!

Thoft, Ingrid

"Kinsey Millhone, you've got competition. This firecracker of a series starter is a perfect summer read. It introduces Fina Ludlow, the in-house private investigator for her family's ethically shaky lawfirm. What starts as a search for her missing sister-in-law uncovers bombshells and twisted family secrets. " -- Entertainment Weekly. The Ludlows are a hard-charging family, and patriarch Carl Ludlow treats his offspring like employees--which they are. But his daughter, Fina, is a bit of a black sheep. A law school dropout, her father keeps her in the fold as the firm's private investigator, working alongside her brothers. Juggling her family of high-powered (and highly dysfunctional) attorneys, the cops and Boston's criminal element is usually something Fina does without breaking a sweat. But when her sister-in-law disappears, she's caught up in a case unlike any she's encountered before. As Fina unearths more dirt, the demands of family loyalty intensify. But Fina is after the truth--no matter the cost.

Chandler, Raymond
The big sleep ;

Hard-boiled detective novels by Raymond Chandler may be of interest to Sue Grafton fans as Chandler is Grafton’s classic precursor. Sue Grafton updates Chandler with her loner female investigator, but the two authors have similar tone and atmosphere. Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction. The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralyzed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail, and murder. In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women. In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself deep in the tangled affairs of a dead coin collector.

Keskinen, Karen
Blood orange

Karen Keskinen and Sue Grafton write action-filled private detective mysteries set in California. Their female private eyes are gutsy and complex who are fiercely independent and have their own moral code. Fans of Millhone should enjoy this series. Though she specializes in missing persons cases, Santa Barbara private investigator Jaymie Zarlin agrees to look into the death of a local teenager, who's murdered just as she's been chosen for the coveted role of Daphne in the annual solstice parade. This is the first book in the series.

Barr, Nevada.
Blind descent

Fans of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone will like Nevada Barr’s National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon. Like Kinsey, Anna has a dangerous job and a tough exterior while Barr herself crafts great mysteries. In Blind Descent, Anna Pigeon faces personal demons as well as life-threatening dangers in an untamed underground wilderness for which neither training nor her love of the outdoors has prepared her. When a fellow ranger is injured in a caving accident, Anna swallows her paralyzing fear of small spaces and descends into Lechuguilla Cavern, a man-eating cave formed by acid burning away the limestone. All the skills Anna has honed in the terrestrial world are called into play on precipitous climbs, exhausting treks, and descents into canyons that have never seen the sun. The terrain is alien and hostile, the greed and destructive powers of mankind all too familiar. In this place of internal terrors, Anna must learn whom she can trust, and, in the end, decide who is to live and who is to die.  This is just one of the titles featuring Anna Pigeon, be sure to read them all.

Jance, Judith A.
Edge of evil

J.A. Jance, like Grafton, offers plot-driven tales complete with murder, suspense, and determined female protagonists. Edge of Evil introduces Ali Reynolds - complex, appealing, intelligent, and doesn't take bull from anyone. The end of her high-profile broadcasting career came too soon for TV journalist Alison Reynolds bounced off the air by executives who wanted a “younger face”. With a divorce from her cheating husband also pending, there is nothing keeping her in LA any longer. Cut loose from her moorings, Ali is summoned back home to Sedona, Arizona, by the mysterious death of a childhood friend. Suddenly something dark and deadly is swirling around her life and a killer may be hunting her next.  This is the first book in the series featuring Ali Reynolds. 

Muller, Marcia.
The dangerous hour

Sharon McCone, like Kinsey Millhone is a strong, funny female detective with a knack for finding herself in the midst of the action. While the early books in the series offer a slower pace, the later titles offer more dialogue and action. When one of her investigative operatives is arrested for major credit card fraud, Sharon McCone's efforts to prove the woman's innocence are complicated by evidence that supports her guilt and points to a larger conspiracy.  While this title is midway through the series, it is closer to the feel of Sue Grafton's mysteries than Muller's early titles. 

Lippman, Laura
Baltimore blues

Starring driven female private investigators, fans of Grafton will enjoy this intricately plotted fast-paced mystery series. In a city where someone is murdered almost every day, attorney Michael Abramowitz's death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer's notoriety makes the case front-page news in every local paper except the Star, which crashed and burned before Abramowitz did. A former Star reporter who knows every inch of this town, now-unemployed journalist Tess Monaghan also knows the primary suspect. The time is ripe for a career move, so when Tess is hired to do some unorthodox snooping, she agrees. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the Charm City shadows. And Tess's own name could end up on the ever-expanding list of Baltimore dead. This is the first in the series featuring Tess Monaghan.

Grafton, Sue.
"A" is for alibi

READ THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL! Sue Grafton's knockout thriller that introduced detective Kinsey Millhone to crime fiction. A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes. That's why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she's out on parole and needs Kinsey's help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki's bad name won't be easy. If there's one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it's playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer--and sharper--than she imagined. Here are the rest in the series: "B" Is for Burglar, "C" Is for Corpse, "D" Is for Deadbeat, "E" Is for Evidence, "F" Is for Fugitive, "G" Is for Gumshoe, "H" Is for Homicide, "I" Is for Innocent, "J" Is for Judgment, "K" Is for Killer, "L" is for Lawless, "M" Is for Malice, "N" Is for Noose, "O" Is for Outlaw, "P" Is for Peril, "Q" Is for Quarry, "R" Is for Ricochet, "S" Is for Silence, "T" Is for Trespass, "U" Is for Undertow, "V" Is for Vengeance, "W" Is for Wasted, "X" and the final volume “Y” Is for Yesterday.