U is for Undertow – Characters

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The regular characters in this wonderful series are:

  • Kinsey Millhone is the narrator and main character. Kinsey is a private detective. Kinsey lost her parents in a car accident when she was five. Her aunt Ginny, who was not very maternal, raised her, and Kinsey’s shy, cagey personality is due to her upbringing. We know that Kinsey used to hate school, so she often played truant and spent time with the most unruly students. In this novel we learn that unlike what she thought about her other relatives, her grandmother actually wanted to be involved in her life after her parents’ death. In fact, she wanted to gain custody and wrote a bunch of letters to her daughter Virginia and Kinsey, and she even hired a detective to gather evidence that Virginia was not fitted to be a mother to Kinsey.

Kinsey is now in her late thirties, and has been married twice. The first time she married a cop, years older than she was, and she left him because he cheated on her. Her second ex-husband also appears in one of the novels, and Kinsey learns that the reason why their relationship didn’t work is because he is gay.

Apart from her ex-husbands,  Kinsey has had several relationships. The first one was Jonah, a policeman, but their story didn’t progress as the man had a weird relationship with his ex-wife. Camilla, his wife, kept leaving him or claiming she wanted to have an open marriage, but whenever she was in a fix, she returned to him.  The last time we heard from him, he and Camilla were together, and he had agreed to adopt the child that Camilla had by another man.

The next steady relationship was with Robert Dietz, who Kinsey once hired as a bodyguard. They had a very intense affair at first, but Dietz then moved to Germany.  We know that Kinsey was the one who kept calling him, but he never returned her calls. Robert turned up once when he was injured, but their relationship had waned to almost nothing.

Then Kinsey started a relationship with Cheney Phillips, a handsome policeman, and I really loved how keen he seemed to be. Yet, in this last book we learn that Kinsey and Cheney broke up because Kinsey felt it was getting too intense, and she was too independent for that. I really like Cheney, and I hope that in the next books they  might rekindle their passion. In this book, Kinsey and Cheney talk but they seem to have reach an understanding to be just friends.

  • Henry Pitts is Kinsey’s octogenarian landlord and neighbour. Henry is quite attractive for his age. Kinsey has rented Henry’s garage, which he converted into an apartment. The first apartment was quite basic, but when a bomb went off and destroyed the apartment, Henry renovated the whole thing and Kinsey got a lovely new place. Henry is a retired baker, and many times he and Kinsey talk in his kitchen over some rolls and wine. Henry is attractive to women, but he hasn’t had much luck with the ladies he has been dating lately.
  • Cheney Phillips is Kinsey’s former boyfriend. They broke up because Kinsey felt she was losing her independence.
  • Robert Dietz is another of Kinsey’s men, and she hasn’t seen him for quite a long time. He is similar to Kinsey in the sense that they are both quite independent and private.
  • Lieutenant Con Dolan is a police inspector, who is now retired. Kinsey referred to him often in the past, and now that he is retired, they still have a relationship, especially as Dolan has asked her to look into some cold cases.
  • Stacey Oliphant is Lieutenant Con Dolan’s friend and ex-colleague. In a book they asked Kinsey to investigate a case which they couldn’t solve. AT the time Stacey was fighting cancer, but now he is clean.
  • Rosie is the Hungarian owner of the diner that Kinsey frequents. The woman is quite rude and dictates what her customers must eat. When Rosie met Henry’s brother, William, they fell in love and got married.
  • William is Henry’s brother and Rosie’s husband. He is a hypochondriac and talks about diseases all the time. He is also partial to funerals, and he even attends funerals of people who he doesn’t know.
  • Lonnie Kingman is the lawyer who owns the building who Kinsey used to have an office in. Whenever she has legal problems, Kinsey always resorts to his advice.
  • Rita Kinsey is Kinsey’s mother, who died in a car crash when Kinsey was five. She is not really a character as she is dead in all the books, but Kinsey refers to her from time to time.
  • Randy Millhone is Kinsey’s father. He was years older than his wife, and when Rita and he eloped, her family cut her off. He also died in the car crash.
  • Cornelia Lagrand is Kinsey’s grandmother. She has always been a fearsome woman, and Kinsey thought she never cared about her. In this book, Kinsey learns that her grandmother wanted to gain custody of her and kept writing letters to her, and she even hired a private detective. The woman now is having some problems with her mental state, and in the last part of the book Kinsey meets her, but Grand confuses her with her mother.
  • Burton Kinsey was Kinsey’s grandfather, but he has been dead for a long time.
  • Virginia Kinsey was Kinsey’s aunt, who brought her up after her parents died. Aunt Gin was never too affectionate, and that made Kinsey the way she is today. In this book we learn that Virginia had a relationship with the detective her mother hired to find evidence against her unsuitability as a guardian to Kinsey.
  • Aunt Susanna is Kinsey’s aunt
  • Tasha is Kinsey’s cousin.
  • Bettina Thurgood is a woman who Kinsey knows in this novel. She needs to get back the photo album that Kinsey thought was sent by her aunt Susanna. Bettina explains that she was the one who sent him at Grand’s request. Now everybody, including Grand, are out of their mind trying to find the album. Bettina also tells her that she is an orphan and Grand took her in. Kinsey learns that Bettina is only one of many children who her grandmother took in for years.
  • Hale Brandenberg is the private detective that Grand hired to find evidence of Virginia’s unsuitability to raise Kinsey. It seems that eventually he and Virginia had a relationship.

These are the characters that have only appeared in this novel:

  • Michael Sutton hires Kinsey for one day to investigate some memory he has about the time when he was six. He remembers seeing two men digging a hole, and now he thinks that what they were burying was the body of a little girl, Mary Claire, who had been kidnapped and never appeared. Sutton is killed when he recognises one of the men, Walker, and his friend decides to get rid of him
  • Mary Claire Fitzhugh is the four-year-old child who was kidnapped and we later learn that her kidnappers made a mistake and the girl died as a consequence of a reaction to the drug that she was given.
  • Deborah Unruh has her house on the land where the dog was found. In the 60s Deborah was not having a good time as her son, who had never given her any problem, dropped out of university and came back with a very unsuitable girl. The girl was pregnant and very rude to Deborah and her husband. When she gave birth to her baby daughter, Shelly and Greg left and abandoned their girl, and Deborah and Patrick adopted her and raised her as their own
  • Greg Unruh is Deborah’s son, who is nothing but a toy in Shelly’s hands. We learn that later he fled to Canada where he died of an overdose.
  • Patrick Unruh is Debora’s husband. She can’t stand Shelly and is inclined to tell his son and her girlfriend to leave, but Deborah talks him into putting up with them because of their grandchild.
  • Shelly is the girl who is with Greg. She has very peculiar ideas about relationships and parenthood, and the first time we learnt about her she calls herself a beatnik, and then she embraces the hippy culture.  She already has a son, Shawn, but she doesn’t even know who his father is. After giving birth to her daughter, she is not interested and she, Greg and Shawn eventually leave. When they return a second time to Deborah’s, they intend to get money from the Unruhs for a farm, but they are not interested in Rain with the exception of Shawn. In reality, they want the money to move to Canada as Greg wants to avoid being drafted. Shelly entertains the idea of kidnapping her own daughter and asking for a ransom, but she and Greg leave before they consider the option seriously. Shelly also has an affair with Jon, and even asks him to flee with her, but he has already grown tired of her. In the end, we learn that Shelly died of AIDs.
  • Shawn is Shelly’s son, and he is raised without much discipline. At first, Deborah can’t stand him as he is little more than a savage, but then he understands that he is just a little boy, and the way he is is not his fault. Shawn is the only one who is interested in Rain when they return a second time. At present he has a carpentry business, and when Kinsey talks to him, she learns that Shelly had another daughter after they fled to Canada. Shawn tells her that he thinks his sister wasn’t Greg’s. So I think that maybe she might be Jon’s.
  • Patricia Lorraine Unruh (Rain) was Shelly and Greg’s daughter, but her parents left her with her grandparents, and after years without a word she was adopted by Deborah and Patrick. When she was four, she was kidnapped, and her grandparents paid the money, so she was returned home. Her kidnappers were Jon and Walker.
  • Bill Kirkendall is the boy in Sutton’s class whose house Michael claims he was staying when he spotted the two pirated digging the hole.
  • Madaline is the girl who is staying with Sutton. She is an alcoholic, and it is when he picks her up from AA that he spots Walker and recognises him.
  • Kip and Annabelle Sutton are Michael’s parents. They were also good friends of the Unruhs’. Kip and Annabelle didn’t have it easy with Michael because the boy was prone to depression. When they took him to a therapist, the psychologist thought that he had been sexually abused, and somehow she made Michael believe it. That followed a series of terrible accusations from Michael, who was convinced that both his father and mother had abused him. Eventually, he recanted but the damaged was done. Annabelle died when she was swimming, and her husband passed away a couple of months afterwards.
  • Diana Álvarez is Michael’s sister. She is a reporter, and she talks to Kinsey about her brother’s propensity to invent things. Kinsey is sceptical to believe her, but when she and her brother Ryan come a second time, bringing evidence that Michael couldn’t have seen those men because at the time he was in Disneyland with the whole family, celebrating his sixth birthday.
  • WAlker McNally is one of the men who Michael saw. He and Jon kidnapped Rain, and then Mary Claire because they needed money to rent their own apartment. They couldn’t use the money from the first ransom because they learnt that Patrick had marked them with some highlight pencil. So they intended to bury the money there, but when Michael saw them, they decided to bury the dog instead. With the second kidnapping things didn’t go to plan because when they gave the child Valium, the tranquillizer in combination with the medicine she was taking for her allergies killed her. The girl was buried in a wall in Jon’s house behind the water heater. Walker and Tom stopped talking from that moment on so as not to raise suspicions. Walker was always felt guilty and started drinking. At present he is married and has two adopted children, but the weekend when his wife and children were away, he drank too much, especially after finding out that the police was snooping around where they buried the dog. Drunk, he drove his car and killed a girl. At the end of the book, he is ready to confess what happened in the past, and Kinsey saves him because Jon intended to kill him.
  • Jon Corso is the second kidnapper. We see how unhappy he was after his mother passed away. His father married a woman who despised him. In his teenage years Jon was a rebel, doing poorly at school and even breaking into people houses. He became friends with Walker, and through him he met Shelly and Greg, who bought dope from Walker. Jon had an affair with Shelly, but he got bored in the end. He was the one who came up with the idea of kidnapping the girls. At present he claims he never felt guilty about what they did and he loves his life. To protect himself, he kills Michael and would have done the same to Walker if Kinsey hadn’t appeared and stopped him.
  • Carolyn McNally is Walker’s wife, but when he has the accident and kills the young woman, Carolyn is ready to file for a divorce as this is not the first time Walker has had problems with drink. She and Walker have two children, Fletcher and Linnie, who they adopted after all the miscarriages Carolyn went through.
  • Marty Osborne is the psychologist that make Michael believe he had been sexually abused.
  • Flannagan Sanchez is the man whose number was on the dog tag found buried. Flannagan explains that the dog belonged to his son, who died in a motorbike accident. A couple of years later the dog started having problems with a hip, and he took him to a vet, who told him it was some kind of cancer. So Flannagan agreed that he should euthanized.
  • Lionel Corso is Jon’s father
  • Mona Stark is the woman who Jon’s father married and who Jon loathed.
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