Eight years ago, Nikki Fife was convicted of murdering her husband, Laurence Fife. Nikki went to prison, and the community wiped itself clean of the scandal. Now out on parole, the ethereal murderess continues to proclaim her innocence and decides to hire private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Although it’s not her first time investigating, Kinsey finds the case puzzling. She can’t seem to grasp the details of the full picture; if the case were a puzzle, she would still be assembling the edge pieces.
Plot Overview: Murder, Misdirection and Misinterpretations
Kinsey is a woman who lives without attachments. She has no boyfriend, though she’s twice divorced, no pets, no plants, nothing that requires any sort of maintenance. She’s the clichéd footloose and fancy-free. So when a client like Nikki Fife comes along, and Kinsey needs to travel to find answers, it’s easy to pack up and go.
The P.I. follows what little leads there are, including the related death of Libby Glass (so far ignored by the court system). But as she makes her way from Santa Teresa to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, Kinsey finds herself baiting an unknown assailant. Someone is stalking her. And when a fresh body turns up, Kinsey knows she’s on the right, if dangerous path.
What Kinsey also struggles with – besides the vagueness of the case – is her budding relationship with Charlie Scorsoni. He’s handsome, magnetically sexual and a suspect in the case. For the first time, the loner can’t find her balance, her objectivity, her instincts. Her investigation is, plainly, a mess. Only a persistent P.I. can’t sort it out, and Kinsey gnaws at the case as a dog with a bone.
Criticisms and Compliments
At first, A Is for Alibi seems like it should fit into the chick-lit/mystery genre; it’s a book about a woman, written by a woman and ostensibly read by women. However, unlike Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, who absolutely fits into the chick-lit/mystery genre, Kinsey Millhone is a more traditional detective. She’s tough and street-smart, a former cop who rejected the business of good-and bad-police doing to pursue her own investigations with her own ethics and principles. She’s got attitude and brains, and God help the person who gives her the run around or irritates her. This woman has a thick skin and a brilliant brain.
Unlike many other mystery novels, as well, A Is for Alibi is written in the first person. Typically, a mystery novel is written in third person so as to provide additional points of view and clues; first person, on the other hand, only provides the point of the view of the main character, so the reader learns as the character learns. It’s a more limited, but infinitely more challenging way to write, and Evanovich employs such a point of view in a skillful, efficient way. Kinsey is a methodical, instinctive detective, and her journey from assignment to investigation to conclusion is logical, fast and entertaining. It is, to use a cliché, “unputdownable” (not unlike Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy, also written in first person).
A Is for Alibi is, simply, a fantastic read. It’s a smart novel with smart writing, and Kinsey Millhone should be one of literature’s favorite detectives (or private investigators).
- Grafton, Sue. A Is for Alibi. St. Martin’s Griffin (Reprint edition), 2008 ISBN 9780312353810