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"G" Is for Gumshoe

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Language  English
Media type  Print (Hardcover)
ISBN  978-0-8050-0461-8
Author  Sue Grafton
Followed by  "H" Is for Homicide
3.9/5 Goodreads

Country  United States
Series  Alphabet Mysteries
Pages  261 pp (first edition)
Originally published  5 May 1990
Preceded by  "F" Is for Fugitive
Genre  Mystery

Awards  Anthony Award for Best Novel, Shamus Award for Best P. I. Hardcover Novel
Similar  Works by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone books, Mystery books

"G" Is for Gumshoe (1990) is the seventh novel in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet" series of mystery novels and features Kinsey Millhone, a private eye based in Santa Teresa, California.


In "G" Is for Gumshoe, Kinsey Millhone meets fellow investigator Robert Dietz when someone hires a hit man to kill her. While Kinsey is being stalked, she uncovers an unsolved murder that haunts the lives of her client Mrs. Irene Gersh and Irene's "mother" who uses the alias "Agnes Grey" (the title of an Anne Brontë novel). In other developments in Kinsey's personal story, she loses her VW car, and her friend Vera Lipton becomes engaged.

Plot summary

Three things happen to Kinsey Millhone on her thirty-third birthday: she moves into her remodelled apartment, which has finally been finished; she is hired by Irene Gersh, a sickly Santa Theresa resident, to head out to the Slabs in the Mojave Desert and locate her mother; she gets the news that Tyrone Patty, a particularly dangerous criminal she helped the Carson City Police Department track down a few years back, has hired a hitman to kill her.

After her first night in her new place, Kinsey heads out early the next day in search of Mrs Gersh's mother, Agnes Grey, who lives in a trailer in the desert. Agnes isn't home, and the trailer seems to be occupied by two teenage runaways, but Kinsey eventually tracks Agnes down at a local convalescent hospital, where she has been since being taken suddenly ill on a trip to a local town sometime before. Agnes, 83 years old, hasn't exactly been a model patient, and the hospital staff are delighted to hear that she has relatives who can take responsibility for her. Irene makes plans to transfer Agnes to a facility in Santa Teresa, but Agnes seems terrified of going there, and tells Kinsey a confused story about a number of people from the past, including Lottie, and Emily who died.

Kinsey makes plans to come home, but before she can do so, a man in a pick-up truck deliberately runs her off the road, seriously injuring Kinsey and totalling her treasured VW. Kinsey recognises the driver as a man traveling with his young son she has seen a couple of times on the journey to the Slabs, and realises she needs to take the death threat against her seriously. She hires Robert Dietz, the PI who helped her briefly by phone in A is for Alibi, as a bodyguard. His vigilance initially frustrates Kinsey, used to making her own decisions, but they soon begin an affair. Dietz discovers the hitman is Mark Messinger, who absconded with his son, Eric, eight months previously. He arranges a meeting with the child's mother, Rochelle, who is desperate to get her son back, and offers to help her.

Meanwhile Agnes goes missing only a few hours after getting to Santa Teresa, and although she is soon found, she is dead within a day - of fright, according to the pathologist - and they suspect she has been kept prisoner somewhere. Irene suffers a serious panic reaction when she sees a tea set Kinsey found amongst her mother's possessions, and Kinsey suspects this has triggered a buried childhood memory. Further anomalies occur when Irene tries to fill in the paperwork relating to the death: Kinsey realises that Irene's birth certificate is faked, and that Agnes Grey is a pseudonym. It's Kinsey's CFI colleague Darcy who points out Agnes Grey is the name of a novel by Anne Brontë, which seems to link to the names Emily and Lottie (Charlotte) Agnes had mentioned. She tracks down a family called Bronfen who match the circumstances Agnes described, and surmises that the surviving brother of the family, Patrick, murdered Lottie and Emily. She is convinced that Agnes Grey was Anne Bronfen, a third sister, who took off with Irene to protect her when Patrick killed Irene's mother, Sheila, changing their identities and posing as her mother. The three daughters were presumably named for the Brontë sisters, which explains the alias Anne chose to use. Patrick faked Anne's death in order to gain sole possession of the family property.

Kinsey is convinced that Patrick is responsible for Agnes's death, to cover his past crimes, and discovers evidence of further killings at his home. When she confronts Patrick, she is interrupted by Messinger, who kills Patrick. Dietz and Rochelle have managed to get Eric away from Messinger, and Messinger's stated intention is to use Kinsey as a hostage to exchange for Eric. As she drives Messinger to the airport at gunpoint to intercept Rochelle, Kinsey is convinced Messinger will kill them all. However, Rochelle outsmarts Messinger and kills him first.


"G" Is for Gumshoe was honored with both the Private Eye Writers of America's Shamus Award for best novel and Bouchercon's 1991 Anthony Award for Best Novel. The reviewer for the School Library Journal considered the book oriented towards adults but to be suitable for young adults as well, and wrote that "this light mystery maintains interest to the end".


"G" Is for Gumshoe Wikipedia