I've spent some time in Santa Barbara and in Montecito. A more beautiful setting I could not imagine. Grafton's novels have covered the period from 1983 to 1987, but have actually been written over the past twenty-seven years. "U" is for Undertow is on my "waiting to be read" bookshelf right now. She plans to write until the letter "Z" is for Zero, and then end the series. Kinsey Millhone is a likable character, divorced and somewhat frustrated with her love life, but content to share her life with friends, including a fascinating 80-plus year-old man who is her landlord. (One of my favorite characters in her books.)
If you've never read the Alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone, I would recommend beginning with "A" is for Alibi and read them in order. "B" is for Burglar, "C" is for Corpse, and so on. The stories have continuity within the context of Kinsey Millhone's life, and if you start by reading the recent novels you will have deprived yourself of MOST of the back story that makes her character so interesting.