Minimalists in Fiction: Kinsey Millhone

© 2013 Christy King

Meet Kinsey Millhone, P.I.

Sue Grafton, author of the “alphabet series,” writes mystery novels about a private investigator named Kinsey Millhone. The series begins with A is for Alibi and, so far, goes through W is for Wasted.

Millhone lives in the fictional California town of Santa Teresa in a tiny apartment. As she says in “A” Is for Alibi, “My apartment is small but I like living in a cramped space.”

She describes her apartment in more detail in later books.

“It’s tidy and self-contained and all of it suits me absolutely.”

– Kinsey Millhone in “D” Is for Deadbeat

Millhone’s apartment is a converted single-car garage “maybe fifteen feet square, which serves as living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, closet, and laundry room.”

She used to live in a trailer, but found it “too opulent.” She mentions that she may even end up without an apartment at all.

I tend to be work-oriented and my living quarters seem to have shrunk, year by year, to this miniature state. For a while, I lived in a trailer, but that began to feel too opulent. I’m often out of town and I object to spending money for space I don’t use. It’s possible that one day I’ll reduce my personal requirements to a sleeping bag that I can toss in the backseat of my car, thus eliminating altogether the need for paying rent.

Kinsey Millhone in “C” is for Corpse

Her apartment “has been cleverly designed and apportioned to suggest the illusion of living room, dining room, and bedroom.” (“E” is for Evidence).

 Millhone’s minimalist wardrobe

Millhone has few clothes, dressing mostly in jeans and turtlenecks, though she does own one dress.

I stopped by my apartment and changed into pantyhose, low heels, and my all-purpose dress. This garment, which I’ve owned for five years, is made of some magic fabric that doesn’t wilt, wrinkle, or show dirt. It can be squashed down to the size of a rain hat and shoved in the bottom of my handbag without harm. It can also be rinsed out in any bathroom sink and hung to dry overnight. It’s black, lightweight, has long sleeves, zips up the back, and should probably be ‘accessorized,’ a women’s clothing concept I’ve never understood. I wear the dress ‘as is’ and it always looks okay to me.

Kinsey Millhone in “D” is for Deadbeat

She doesn’t own much of anything else either

Millhone has few possessions, mentioning in “E” is for Evidence, “I have more than adequate storage space for the few things I possess.” She also has few wants.

As it is, my wants are few. I don’t have pets or houseplants. I do have friends, but I don’t entertain. If I have any hobbies at all, they consist of cleaning my little semi-automatic and reading up on evidential documents. I’m not exactly a bundle of laughs, but I do pay my bills, keep a little money tucked away, and provide myself with medical insurance to cover the hazards of my trade. I like my life just as it is, though I try not to boast overmuch about the fact.

Kinsey Millhone in “C” is for Corpse

“The accumulation of an entire life and it was really only so much trash. Who would ever need to refer to any of this stuff again?”

– Kinsey Millhone in “A” Is for Alibi (about someone else’s stuff)

Thanks to Carol Preibis of Ahh the Simple Life for telling me about Millhone’s minimalism in the comments to my post on Jack Reacher. I’d heard of Grafton’s novels (mostly as crossword clues like “A” is for ____,”) but had never read any of them.

I began with “A” Is for Alibi and worked my way through “F” Is for Fugitive before writing this post. (Yes, I read them in order. Go ahead and laugh.)

They’re enjoyable and easy-to-read mystery novels. If you like mysteries, give them a try.

11 thoughts on “Minimalists in Fiction: Kinsey Millhone

  1. I have seen these books around, but wasn’t too tempted to read them. But if the main character has minimalist tendencies, it might be worth giving it a try 🙂

    I also like the idea of the way you approach discussing minimalism, through fictional and historical characters.

  2. I’m not laughing, I too have read them in order I hate jumping into a series and wondering what I missed that led to a particular situation in a later book. I don’t remember which book it was that her apartment was rebuilt, did you get to that one yet? I enjoy the descriptions of her home and her belongings as I feel my home is similar while reminding me I could downsize even more.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one. My husband is always teasing me (in a nice way). I always want to watch TV shows in order too. The last book I read her apartment was in the process of being rebuilt. After reading so many in a row, I’m going to take a break, but then will pick up with where I left off.

  3. Hi Christy, So glad you decided to try this mystery series. It certainly is one of my top favorites!

    You might be interested in the reader’s companion to the world of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone; it’s title is “G” is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey.”

    From the Amazon description: “With the cooperation of Sue Grafton, who provided unprecedented access to her working journals, authors Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay have created a fully dimensional biography of Kinsey Millhone that will answer every question readers have ever had.”

    I am currently reading the latest Kinsey Milhone “W Is For Wasted.”

    Wishing you and your readers blessings this holiday season.

    • I enjoyed them, and will continue to read the series (just not so many in a period of a couple of months!) They’re not high literature, but fun little mysteries.

      Incidentally, if you (or anyone else) wants to find these books at the library: I found an annoying little quirk in our library system – they were found in a search only using the quotation marks, as is in “a” is for alibi. A search for a is for alibi turned up no books.

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