U Is for Undertow
By Sue Grafton
Thorndike Large Print (2009), 655 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - March 1, 2010
This twenty-first book by Sue Grafton displays the continuing potency of her skills. Kinsey Millhone is thirty eight years old in April 1988 when the mystery occurs. She is vibrant, inquisitive, likeable and persistent. The mystery is based on the disappearance of a four year old female child, apparently kidnapped, two decades earlier and Grafton weaves in chapters about remarkable characters and events of that earlier time.
The basis of the drama is a seemingly unnatural circumstance. A young man hires Kinsey to discover the body of the long dead girl. He tells her that he has a renewed memory. On his sixth birthday in 1967, he saw two men burying a bundle in a field that he is convinced was the body of the missing four-year old. He can visualize the place and is sure that although he only just turned six at the time and although some twenty one years have passed, he could identify the two men.
As preposterous as this sounds, Kinsey believes him. She continues to believe him despite clear proof that the young man has psychological problems and that he lied about a serious matter in the past that hurt his family and community greatly. One person who tries to warn Kinsey that the man is lying again is the manís sister. Kinsey learns about another curious kidnapping that occurred just before the one she is investigating. A ransom was paid, but never cashed and the child was returned unharmed after being treated very well. Are the two cases related? How and why? It is interesting to read how Kinsey is able to uncover people and events two decades old.
Kinsey has her own family problem. She was raised by an aunt with little or no interpersonal relation or parenting skills after her parents were killed in an automobile accident, when she was only a few years old. She received no contact from the rest of her family and felt abandoned and hurt for decades. Now, after the death of her aunt, one of these relatives hands her a bunch of seemingly loving letters written to her and to her aunt by these relatives. Her aunt returned these letters to the relatives unopened after reading only the first letter.
Sue Grafton tells the two tales masterfully. The events develop in a smooth, rational and suspenseful fashion that readers will enjoy.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.