Skip to main content

Y is for Yesterday


Y is for Yesterday

Living room somewhere in the Southwest. A dozen women of a certain age encircle a coffee table covered with snacks. They’ve topped off their wine glasses, ready for the monthly book discussion. We call ourselves “The Best Book Club Ever,” but it’s a clever cover for Bookaholics Anonymous.

LEADER: Does anyone here have anything they want to talk about before we get started?
MEMBER: Hi, I’m Roz, and I’m a Bookaholic.
GROUP: Hi, Roz!
ROZ: I know it’s not on this month’s agenda, but I just finished Sue Grafton’s latest book, Y IS FOR YESTERDAY, and I’m really depressed.
GROUP (all speaking at once): Why? Didn’t you like it? What’s wrong?
ROZ: No, no, I loved it. But it is book 25 in the Alphabet series. That means there’s only one more left! Grafton’s still got it. Oh, she had a couple of hiccups around the middle of the alphabet, but who would have thought that when A IS FOR ALIBI, followed by B IS FOR BURGLAR, hit the top of the New York Times bestseller lists that she’d still be sprinting toward the finish line 35 years later. Skeptics (myself among them) who predicted she might’ve bitten off more than she could chew are eating her dust.

"If I say too much I’d give the plot away, and if you’re already a fan of Sue Grafton, you pretty much know what to expect. The delightful world of Kinsey Millhone remains like a dragonfly in amber, capturing the halcyon period of the mid-1980s"

This is no traditional review of Y IS FOR YESTERDAY. If I say too much I’d give the plot away, and if you’re already a fan of Sue Grafton, you pretty much know what to expect. The delightful world of Kinsey Millhone remains like a dragonfly in amber, capturing the halcyon period of the mid-1980s. She lives, detects, falls in love with the most inappropriate men in Santa Teresa, CA, is almost murdered by some and drops others like hot potatoes. She still makes calls from phone booths. When was the last time you used or saw one of those? She has an answering machine. She still drives a stick car (the infamous VW was destroyed by fire somewhere around “G” or “H,” if memory serves). She keeps her notes on 3x5 cards and has never seen a computer. She still thinks her octogenarian landlord, Henry, is a sexy old dude and eats Rosie’s offal-infused Hungarian food at her tacky neighborhood bar. She has picked up odd bits of flotsam and jetsam relatives along the way, as well as a few stalkers.

But she’s still Kinsey, it’s still the ’80s, and the LA freeways are narrower yet still a nightmare. Santa Teresa (if you didn’t already know this, it’s Santa Barbara in disguise) remains a picturesque California Spanish city. I haven’t been there in years, so I can’t say if it retains that ambiance, but if “Y” is any indication, it’s on its way to urban sprawl with the rest of the Southwest in that era.

CAVEAT: Our book club is not by definition a 12-step program. We are, in fact, the polar opposite of giving up our addiction to books. Some among us may prefer to be buried with our favorites tucked away in our tombs like the pharaohs for something to read in the afterlife.

Are we addicts or enablers? We savor and share anything we can get our hands on: fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, spy thrillers, classics, biographies, award winners. We eschew discussing bestsellers, following a rule introduced early on banning Oprah picks. The format doesn’t matter: hardcovers, paperbacks, library editions, secondhand, online orders, eBooks, new books, old books, borrowed books, books left on planes and trains. Confidentially, I have been known to roam the house in the wee hours still sleepless after finishing a book, rummaging through my shelves for an oldie. I returned to bed after one midnight hunt, and my husband mumbled, “Terry Pratchett again? Really?”

Author John Dunning once wrote in BOOKED TO DIE, the first in his detective series featuring a bookseller, about the value of rare first editions and those willing to murder for them. Grafton received a mention for having one of the highest priced first editions ever sold at auction. I made a painful decision when we moved cross country in 1986. I weep at the thought that my copy of A IS FOR ALIBI ended up among the 700 books that I donated to a popular non-profit book sale at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Whoever found A IS FOR ALIBI, I hope you’re rich and happy. I downloaded it the other night (at midnight) after finishing Y IS FOR YESTERDAY. It’s everything it was cracked up to be 35 years ago.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on August 25, 2017

Y is for Yesterday
by Sue Grafton

  • Publication Date: August 22, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Marian Wood Books/Putnam
  • ISBN-10: 0399163859
  • ISBN-13: 9780399163852