3.7/5 Barnes & Noble
Publication date 1982-04-15
Originally published 15 April 1982
Page count 76,481
Followed by "B" Is for Burglar
Country United States
Publisher Henry Holt and Company
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Preceded by The Lolly-Madonna War
|Pages 274 pp. first edition76,481 words|
Similar Works by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries Series books, Mystery books
"A" Is for Alibi is crime writer Sue Grafton's debut mystery novel in the Kinsey Millhone "Alphabet mystery" series, first published in 1982. The novel is set in the fictional southern California city of Santa Teresa, based on Santa Barbara. Grafton admits she conceived the story on her own "fantasies" of murdering her then husband while going through a divorce. The choice of murder by substituting the contents of an antihistamine tablet with crushed oleander meant that an alibi held no value because the contents of the tablet could have been switched a considerable time earlier than the victim actually swallowed the tablet.
The first printing of "A" Is for Alibi was 7,500 copies, with sales of about 6,000.
"A" Is for Alibi features Kinsey Millhone, 32, a private detective. She investigates the death of prominent divorce lawyer Laurence Fife. His murder eight years earlier was blamed on his wife, Nikki Fife, who upon being released from prison hires Kinsey to find the real murderer. In the course of the investigation Kinsey becomes involved with Charlie Scorsoni, Fife's former law partner. She discovers Fife's death has been linked to that of a woman in Los Angeles, his law firm's accountant; both died after taking poisonous oleander capsules which had been substituted for allergy pills. Kinsey tracks down the accountant's parents and former boyfriend. She then goes to Las Vegas to interview Fife's former secretary, Sharon Napier, who is killed minutes before Kinsey arrives. Back in California, Kinsey is mystified that Nikki's son, Colin, recognizes Laurence's first wife, Gwen, in a photograph. Kinsey surmises that Gwen was having an affair with her ex-husband at the time of his death. She accuses Gwen, who confesses. Shortly afterwards, she too is dead, killed in a hit-and-run crash.
Kinsey has solved the case she was hired to investigate, but in a plot twist, she discovers that her previous notions about the accountant's death were entirely wrong: in fact, it was Scorsoni who killed her when she discovered he was embezzling money from mutual accounts. He used the same method that Gwen used to kill Fife, so it would be assumed the same person committed both murders. In a final confrontation, he chases Kinsey across the beach, armed with a knife. Before he can kill her, she shoots him dead.