Saturday, March 23, 2013

Three Graves Full

Every now and again I will recommend a book to you, but very rarely will I do a full book review. Mostly that's because I'm short on time and this isn't a book-review blog.

Today is different.

The book is THREE GRAVES FULL by Jamie Mason. For ease of reading, I'll divide this review into three sections: (1) story summary, (2) my review (3) disclaimer (I know that's not normal, but read on and you'll see).

Before I begin, I'll let you know that this is one book that you can judge by its cover, which I just love.

Right, let's begin:

(1) Story summary (from Amazon):

There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.
But it could always be worse. . . .

More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.

Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime, and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels, snagged on the agendas of a colorful cast of strangers. A jilted woman searches for her lost fiancĂ©, a fringe dweller runs from a past that’s quickly gaining on him, and a couple of earnest local detectives piece clues together with the help of a volunteer police dog—all in the shadow of a dead man who had it coming. As the action unfolds, each character discovers that knowing more than one side of the story doesn't necessarily rule out a deadly margin of error.

(2) My review:

The story: I read a lot of crime fiction, and as you know I write it, too. Originality, true originality, is rare but we have it here. Once an author comes up with a unique premise like this, the reader is inevitably going to be hooked and I was. It's a clever double-hook, too, with Jason's body in the back yard and two unknown ones in the front--that's two mysteries that the reader wants to investigate.

Having hooked me, the plot continued to pull me along, not because the author throws in manufactured twists (which can be annoying) but because the story flowed like a river (one of those white-water, excitingly bubbly ones) and I couldn't help but find myself on the cusp of another disaster and desperate to know how it turned out. But also, the characters...

The characters:  here's a challenge: write a story where the main character is a wimp. How do you hold the reader's interest when your central figure is kind of a passive, soft-spined, scaredy-cat? Well, you write this book. See, the other characters become extensions of him, moulding his mind and actions and pressing him into activities that create conflict, which is the essence of a good book. And those surrounding characters are themselves original, interesting, and real.

The other thing that happens, is that you as the reader start to donate spine to the main man. I felt anger on behalf of Jason as one of the characters bullied him, and Jason's flaws let me root for him when I wasn't directly identifying with him.

I reserve a special nod for one character, though, because Mason manages to pull off something that normally irritates me, something that will by itself make me put down a book and roll my eyes. See, there's a dog in the book, Tessa, a dog you come to love very much and Mason tells part of the story (a small part) from Tessa's point of view. Not only did she pull that off, but left me wishing more of the story came from Tessa's POV. (That said, it wouldn't have made sense to do so, I just love how she did it.)

The writing: I probably should have started with this, because the writing was perhaps the greatest pleasure for me. This book has been billed as a kind of Coen brothers movie in book form. I happen to think that's an apt description because this book has a literary flair that elevates it above others in the genre. I've seen reviews calling THREE GRAVES FULL literary and I concur. Paragraph after paragraph, page after page, I reveled in the beauty of the language. Mason has a way with words that, as a writer, delights you and makes you envious, and as a reader is beyond charming. Think of a book as a meal, with the plot as the recipe, the characters as the ingredients, and the writing as the process of combining those two and cooking. Mason is a master chef.

(3) The Disclaimer:

This is Jamie Mason:

I know Jamie Mason. I offered to read and review her book because she's a friend. Understand, though, that such an offer trails behind it an invisible but very real ripple of trepidation. What if I hate the book? What do I do and say then?  Well, I'll tell you: what I don't do in that case is write a long, slobbering review raving about it. I only do that when I love the book, which as you can tell happens to be the case. Now, I haven't said this to Jamie, though I know she's felt the same as a writer and reviewer, but about nine sentences in I experienced a huge wave of relief (and in this case excitement) when it became clear that she could really write.  And believe me, she can really, really write.

If you want to know more about her and her work, check out these links:

Her web site:
Her blog:
The writing site she co-run:
Her Facebook page:

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, you got me with "Coen brothers movie in book form." This is going on my list. I enjoy crime fiction too. John Grisham has always been a favorite. Looking forward to savoring Jamie Mason's prose.


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