on February 8, 2017
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Also in this series: Death and the Redheaded Woman, Death and the Brewmaster's Widow
When former army medic Tony Dozier is accused of killing a member of the hate group that disrupted his wife's funeral, the prosecution charges premeditated murder and the defense claims temporary insanity. Former marine Death Bogart and auctioneer Wren Morgan think there's more to the story.
They're both led to the long-abandoned Hadleigh House, where Wren begins preparing the contents for auction but ends up searching for the story behind an antique sketchbook. As Wren uncovers the century-old tale of a World War I soldier and his angel, Death finds a set of truths that will change...or end...their lives.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Death & the Gravedigger’s Angel is the third in the Loretta Ross’s terrific Auction Block Mystery series. It’s hard to say what I like best about the series: Death and Wren’s relationship; Wren’s resourcefulness; Death trying to come to terms with his disability while still pushing himself; the sibling banter with Randy and between the Keystone twins; the realistic way the books acknowledge trauma and PTSD, especially among vets and crime victims; even the whole Keystone clan, who are funny and endearing and eccentric in a believably realistic way.
Death (pronounced “Deeth,” and named after Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey) is the official detective, or rather, private eye, but both he and Wren take a hand in solving the mysteries. They’re also a solid romantic pairing—they have very little relationship angst to speak of, and by this third book, there’s no “will-they-won’t-they” guessing, either. And it’s just as well, because there’s plenty of interest and suspense without it.
I enjoyed this one particularly for the old mansion and the stories associated with it. There’s something almost irresistible about exploring an old house, as Wren gets to do in the process of preparing its contents for auction. As she does, she gets caught up in the question of who was the “gravedigger” who once lived there, and why did he create sketch after sketch of a young woman in a war-torn village? PTSD becomes the common thread between Wren’s historical mystery and the pair of contemporary mysteries puzzling Death: How did a dead man end up in a Confederate uniform with a grisly past, and who killed the son of a religious fanatic?
It’s this sort of realism—PTSD and the aftermath of war, religious fanaticism not played for laughs, and a small-town setting that’s never idealized—that makes this series more serious and believable than many cozy series, from the character depictions to the overall tone. Yet it’s not all seriousness. Ross has just the right touch, blending in humor by expressing it through characters’ dialogue and the jokes they make, rather than the narrative voice. It feels like the level of humor in everyday life, and balances the seriousness of death and murder without diminishing it.
I mentioned Wren’s resourcefulness, and boy, does she need it in this book! I can’t describe the scene without spoilers, but I loved the way she uses her wits and her skills (not to mention her scorn for horror-movie characters) to good effect, essentially rescuing herself from a really dangerous situation. Kudos also to Ross for creating a female character who is the antithesis of TSTL (too stupid to live.)
I first read Death & the Gravedigger’s Angel last January, shortly after death of a good friend (over the weekend of his memorial service, in fact), and I had a very hard time staying focused on it. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether the problem was that I was too shaken up to concentrate, or whether the plot was confusing and hard to follow. I’m happy to report that on rereading it with a clear mind, I found the plot complicated but completely coherent, and it was easy to get caught up in the story.
Death & the Viking’s Daughter comes out on February 8, and I can’t wait!
*TSTL is one of my biggest mystery-related pet peeves.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Blogger Shame Challenge 2018