12/29/2017 04:12 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2018

Mystery Novelist Sue Grafton Dead At 77

The author of "A is for Alibi" was "surrounded by family" at the time of her death, her daughter said.

Sue Grafton, who authored “The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet” mystery series, died Thursday in Santa Barbara, California, after a battle with cancer, her daughter announced on the writer’s Facebook page Friday. She was 77.

Grafton began the “Kinsey Millhone” books ― which take their titles from each letter of the alphabet ― with A is for Alibi back in 1982. She died before completing the series, which now ends with Y is for Yesterday. The final installment, Z is for Zero, was originally slated for publication in 2019.

″[A]s far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” Grafton’s daughter Jamie Clark wrote. The author was “adamant” that her books not be adapted for the screen or ghostwritten, her daughter said, so the series is unlikely to get a neat finale.

Grafton was “surrounded by family” at the time of her death, Clark wrote, noting that her mother’s health declined rapidly this week after a two-year battle with an unspecified type of cancer.

The daughter of crime novelist C.W. Grafton, Sue Grafton was born in 1940 and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, which appeared in some of her work. The city’s current mayor, Greg Fischer, shared a note about Grafton’s death on social media Friday, writing, ”[I]n Louisville we have lost a citizen, friend, neighbor, a master gardener and hometown hero.”

The “Kinsey Millhone” series, set in the ’80s, centers around a private detective by the same name in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California. 

“Kinsey remains the series’ one constant ― by turns funny, moody, shrewd, loyal, profane, tough and vulnerable. In a word, human,” wrote one reviewer on the 20th book, T is for Trespass, in 2007. The series landed Grafton on The New York Times’ bestseller list and earned her a number of awards, including the title of Grand Master, bestowed by the Mystery Writers of America. Installments have been published in 26 languages.

In a letter to readers on her website, Grafton addressed her plan after she reached the end of the alphabet with Z is for Zero, writing, “No clue.”

“These novels about Ms. Millhone take incredible focus, ingenuity, energy, and imagination. If I have the wherewithal, I may write a Kinsey Millhone stand-alone or two,” she said. “If I feel I’ve lost my touch, I’ll retire with grace.”

Grafton’s publisher, Penguin Random House, said in a statement on Twitter that the company was “devastated” by the loss.



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