Kinsey Millhone

Kinsey Millhone

Kinsey Millhone is the name of a fictional private investigator created by Sue Grafton for her "alphabet mysteries" series of novels. Millhone appears in a number of short stories written by Grafton. Grafton's mystery novels featuring Millhone are set in 1980s Santa Teresa, a fictionalized town based on Santa Barbara, California.[1]



Kinsey Millhone was born on May 5, 1950. Her unusual first name was the maiden name of her mother, wealthy debutante Rita Cynthia Kinsey, who married Kinsey's father, Randy Millhone against the wishes of Kinsey's grandmother, Cornelia LaGrand Kinsey (Grand), causing a family rift. Kinsey's parents were killed in a car wreck when she was five, surviving in the car alone for several hours before she was rescued. She then moved in with her mother's sister Virginia (Aunt Gin), the only relative to side with Rita in the family rift, although Kinsey later finds out her parents were en route to a bridge-building family visit when the accident occurred. From her Aunt Gin, Kinsey acquired various eccentricities, including a liking for peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches. In high school, Kinsey was a self-described pot-smoking delinquent. After three semesters at the local community college she realized that academic life was not for her and she joined the Santa Teresa police force. After two years, Kinsey decided life in uniform wasn't for her, either, and quit the police force to become an investigator for California Fidelity, an insurance company, where Aunt Gin had worked. Eventually, she became a self-employed private investigator, initially mentored by local PI, Bob (?) who used to be partners with another local PI Morley Shine before striking out on her own, solving various disappearances and murders, clearing names and dodging hitmen. For some years she maintained a loose relationship with CFI, then attached herself to the offices of her lawyer, Lonnie Kingman, before renting her own independent office space in recent years. She has an antagonistic relationship with local cop Con Dolan, although this mellowed into a reasonably amicable truce after Dolan's retirement and they have co-operated on more than one recent case.

Kinsey is 5'6" and weighs about 118 pounds. She has short, dark, thick hair that she trims with nail scissors, being generally uninterested in her physical appearance. Her wardrobe consists mostly of jeans and turtleneck sweaters, though she also owns an extremely wrinkle-resistant "little black dress" for those occasions when dressing up is unavoidable. She does, however, place a great premium on physical fitness and jogs three miles every weekday. At the same time, she has a "penchant for junk food." She also suffers from tinnitus, caused when she shot an attacker from inside a trash can. Kinsey has been divorced twice. Her first husband, Mickey, an ex-cop, appears in O is for Outlaw and her second husband, Daniel, a struggling musician, appears in E is for Evidence. In most ways, Kinsey is a loner. She has no children and lives in an extremely compact studio apartment converted from a single-car garage. Her landlord is a young-at-heart octogenarian, Henry Pitts, a retired commercial baker who enjoys creating crossword puzzles; Kinsey herself admits to having a crush on Henry. Henry's family are long-lived, his siblings all being well into their 90s. When not dining on fast food, Kinsey eats regularly at a local tavern, run by flamboyant Hungarian, Rosie, who recently married Henry's hypochondriac brother, William.

Kinsey has had several relationships in the series, beginning with Charlie Scorsoni, continuing through Jonah Robb, a police officer, and Robert Dietz, another private eye, until the more recent novels in which she began an affair with longtime friend Cheney Phillips, a police detective. Kinsey remained friends with Cheney after their split, as she did for a while with Jonah, though Jonah has dropped out of her life increasingly after patching up his on-off marriage. Dietz on the other hand has lost touch completely, although Kinsey still thinks of him occasionally.

Having lived for most of her life with very few family members (for most of the series, her "family" consisted of Henry and his siblings, , Rosie, and the generous-natured employees in nearby offices), Kinsey received a shock when she found about the Kinsey clan. Meeting her cousins Tasha and Lisa for lunch revealed they are very similar in appearance. Kinsey and Tasha formed a business relationship in M Is for Malice and Kinsey was instinctively attached to Tasha's mother, her aunt Susanna, when she met her. However, she has remained reluctant to become involved with her new-found family, feeling that they abandoned her when she was orphaned. However in U is for Undertow she discovered that her grandmother made strenuous efforts to foster her after the accident, which Aunt Gin concealed from Kinsey. Kinsey finally agreed to meet Grand at a family event where her grandmother, now very frail, mistook her for her mother.

Kinsey Millhone novels

  1. "A" Is for Alibi (1982)
  2. "B" Is for Burglar (1985)
  3. "C" Is for Corpse (1986)
  4. "D" Is for Deadbeat (1987)
  5. "E" Is for Evidence (1988)
  6. "F" Is for Fugitive (1989)
  7. "G" Is for Gumshoe (1990)
  8. "H" Is for Homicide (1991)
  9. "I" Is for Innocent (1992)
  10. "J" Is for Judgment (1993)
  11. "K" Is for Killer (1994)
  12. "L" Is for Lawless (1995)
  13. "M" Is for Malice (1996)
  14. "N" Is for Noose (1998)
  15. "O" Is for Outlaw (1999)
  16. "P" Is for Peril (2001)
  17. "Q" Is for Quarry (2002)
  18. "R" Is for Ricochet (2004)
  19. "S" Is for Silence (2005)
  20. "T" Is for Trespass (2007)
  21. "U" Is for Undertow (2009)
  22. "V" Is for Vengeance (2011)

Grafton has stated that the twenty-sixth and final book in the series will be titled "Z" Is for Zero.[2] In 2009, she revealed to a Los Angeles Times interviewer that this final novel will "coincide with Kinsey's 40th birthday in 1990".[2] In July 2011, Grafton told The Wall Street Journal, "You're never going to have to watch Kinsey Millhone go through menopause."[3]

Also published

  • Kinsey and Me (1992) - a collection of Kinsey Millhone short stories along with other short stories about Grafton's own mother.
  • The Lying Game (2003) - a Kinsey Millhone short story which appeared in the September 2003 special 40th anniversary Lands' End catalogue. It also appeared as a separate pamphlet given to attendees at Malice Domestic 2011 conference, where Grafton was recognized for Lifetime Achievement.

Kinsey Millhone in other works

Kinsey Millhone is featured in cameo appearances in crime novels by other authors. Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller's have their fictional detective spot Millhone at a convention in Chicago. Sara Paretsky has her sleuth V.I. Warshawski envy Millhone's organization.[4]


  1. ^ Brantingham, Barney (July 1, 2008). "W Is for Writers Conference; Sue Grafton Is Kinsey Millhone". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved August 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Weinman, Sarah (December 17, 2009). "Closing in on the letter Z". Los Angeles Times.,0,3603461.story. Retrieved December 27, 2009. "And with the end of the alphabet in sight, no author is more closely identified with reader expectations -- especially when "Z Is for Zero" shepherds Kinsey and her hometown of Santa Teresa to a fictional end." 
  3. ^ Alter, Alexandra (July 1, 2011). "The (Really) Long Goodbye". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  4. ^ Everett, Todd (May 23, 1991). "Mystery Town: Whodunit author Sue Grafton lines in Santa Barbara and sets her tales in Santa Teresa". Los Angeles Times: p. J15. 

External links

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