“L” Is for Lawless by Sue Grafton 1995: A Comprehensive Review

Title: L is for Lawless
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Mystery, Detective Fiction
Published: 1995
Pages: Approximately 320

Synopsis: “L is for Lawless” is the twelfth novel in Sue Grafton’s acclaimed Alphabet Series, featuring the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Set in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California, the novel follows Kinsey as she takes on a seemingly straightforward assignment to track down a missing person. What starts as a routine investigation quickly escalates into a complex and dangerous case involving deception, betrayal, and old family secrets.

The narrative begins with Kinsey being hired by a client named Daggett to locate a man named John Daggett, who supposedly disappeared after the death of his wife. As Kinsey delves deeper into the case, she uncovers a web of lies and a trail of suspicious characters with hidden agendas. Her investigation leads her to confront the dark underbelly of small-town life, where loyalties are tested and buried truths come to light.

Central to the novel is Kinsey Millhone’s trademark wit, resourcefulness, and determination as she navigates through red herrings and unexpected twists. Grafton weaves together multiple plotlines, including Kinsey’s personal life and her evolving relationships with friends and colleagues, adding depth and dimension to the story.


  • Truth and Deception: The novel explores the theme of truth versus deception, as Kinsey unravels layers of deceit to uncover the real motives behind the disappearance.
  • Family and Legacy: Grafton delves into the complexities of family dynamics and the impact of past decisions on present circumstances.
  • Justice and Morality: Through Kinsey’s ethical approach to her work, the novel examines themes of justice, morality, and the consequences of actions.

Narrative Style: “L is for Lawless” is characterized by Grafton’s straightforward and engaging narrative style, which immerses readers in Kinsey Millhone’s investigative process and inner thoughts. The novel’s pacing is brisk, with suspenseful twists and turns that keep readers guessing until the very end.

Critical Reception: The novel received positive reviews for its compelling plot, well-developed characters, and Grafton’s skillful blend of mystery and character-driven storytelling. Critics praised Grafton’s ability to maintain suspense and intrigue throughout the novel, while also deepening the emotional resonance of Kinsey Millhone’s journey.

About the Author: Sue Grafton was a celebrated author known for her Alphabet Series featuring Kinsey Millhone. With a career spanning over three decades, Grafton gained acclaim for her meticulous plotting, memorable characters, and her ability to capture the essence of detective fiction with a modern twist.

Legacy: “L is for Lawless” is part of Grafton’s Alphabet Series, which consists of 25 novels from “A is for Alibi” (1982) to “Y is for Yesterday” (2017), each featuring a different letter of the alphabet. Grafton’s series remains a benchmark in the mystery genre, beloved by readers for its engaging plots and Kinsey Millhone’s enduring appeal.

Conclusion: “L is for Lawless” by Sue Grafton is a compelling addition to the Alphabet Series, showcasing the author’s talent for crafting intricate mysteries and memorable characters. Through Kinsey Millhone’s investigative prowess and personal journey, Grafton explores themes of truth, justice, and the complexities of human relationships. For fans of detective fiction and mystery novels, “L is for Lawless” stands as a testament to Sue Grafton’s legacy as a master storyteller and her enduring impact on the genre.

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