Some people conquer your life, like the first strains of a hit song that has become an earworm.
Others are like match heads in monsoon. They take some time to warm up and then bursts into a sudden flame bringing light and fervour into your life.
It goes true, even for characters from books.
When I read ‘A is for Alibi’ by Sue Grafton, months ago, Kinsey Millhone did not occupy one of the top 5 slots in the list of my favourite sleuths. She was like a slightly damp match stick that I was contemplating whether to throw away or give a try.
Kinsey has no sense of fashion.
She trims her hair with nail scissors and drives decrepit cars.
She lives in a garage apartment, and owns few blue jeans, turtle necks and a single all purpose black dress made of a miracle fabric that she wears for weddings, funerals and parties.
She is rough around the edges and a weak human. She gets emotionally involved with her cases and lies when it suits her investigation. She also has no qualms in admitting her fears.
She does not have any qualities of the sleuths that I worship.
Then I took my chance and read ‘B is for Burglar’ and ‘C is for Corpse’ .
Today I slathered generous amounts of crunchy peanut butter on my bread and then arranged slices of pickled jalapenos over it. I also bought Chardonnay, which I had found too citrusy earlier.
Kinsey fans would know, that is how she eats her sandwich; with dill pickle and crunchy peanut butter and Chardonnay is her preferred drink. Some may call it a weird match, but that’s what Kinsey made me do!!!!
I let her add a sandwich to my all time favourite menu risking my reputation from a great cook to someone of questionable taste. She made me rethink my choice of white wine. Kinsey, what have you done to me ?
I am on ‘N is for Noose’ and has 11 more to go in the Alphabet series and Kinsey has already made adjustments in my choice of food and drink.
I don’t know if any of you get swayed by fictional characters. It does happen with me. Some of them make slight alterations in my patterns and preferences. Last time it happened was when I read the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lee Child.
With Kinsey, it is not just about the hues and strokes which Grafton has used to paint her portrait.
I also love the wordplay which Grafton indulges in, to describe every minutae which might not even matter. It is sheer poetry and I love it. I find myself highlighting sentences, just to go back and relish them all over again.
Sue Grafton couldn’t complete the series, as she passed away before she could work on the alphabet Z.
Here are Kinsey’s own words in the early pages of N Is for Noose:
So there I was barreling down the highway in search of employment and not at all fussy about what kind of work I’d take. I wanted distraction. I wanted some money, escape, anything to keep my mind off the subject of Robert Deitz. I’m not good at good-byes. I’ve suffered way too many in my day and I don’t like the sensation. On the other hand, I’m not that good at relationships. Get close to someone and the next thing you know, you’ve given them the power to wound, betray, irritate, abandon you, or bore you senseless. My general policy is to keep my distance, thus avoiding a lot of unruly emotion. In psychiatric circles, there are names for people like me.”
So there she is, raw and flawed and vulnerable, a tough cookie who exists in the periphery of the society , yet in a niche carved out in the hearts of every fan.