November 8, 2014

Book Review - Graveminder

Melissa Marr

Published: 2011

William Morrow (HarperCollins Imprint), hardcover, 324p.
ISBN: 978-0-06-182687-0

Three sips to mind the dead . . . 

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the attention her grandmother Maylene bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the small town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each one Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: She took three sips from a silver flask and spoke the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you." 

Now Maylene is dead, and Bek must go back to the place she left a decade earlier. She soon discovers that Claysville is not just the sleepy town she remembers, and that Maylene had good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in Claysville the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected; beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. If the dead are not properly cared for, they will come back to satiate themselves with food, drink, and stories from the land of the living. Only the Graveminder, by tradition a Barrow woman, and her Undertaker--in this case Byron Montgomery, with whom Bek shares a complicated past--can set things right once the dead begin to walk. 

 Although she is still grieving for Maylene, Rebekkah will soon find that she has more than a funeral to attend to in Claysville, and that what awaits her may be far worse: dark secrets, a centuries-old bargain, a romance that still haunts her, and a frightening new responsibility--to stop a monster and put the dead to rest where they belong.

Graveminder is the first book by Melissar Marr, and also the first book of hers that I've read.   It follows the story of Rebekkah who returns to the strange town of Claysville after the death of grandmother. 

Plot wise, Graveminder had some truly eerie elements.  That creepy quote on the front cover, "Sleep well, and stay where I put you", is not just a random bit of advice.  The dead will truly rise in Claysville if not properly seen to by the Graveminder, a woman who's sole purpose is to mind the dead, and who along with her partner, the Undertaker, keep the dead from rampaging.   However, at the start of this book all we know is that Maylene, the current Graveminder, is dead.  Byron, son of the funeral director, has a long history with Maylene's granddaughters.  When he comes to collect the body, he is shocked that the murder of Maylene isn't being investigated properly.  The body is moved, and the house cleaned within hours.  The mystery surrounding the actions of the Sheriff, and other important people in town, only adds to the sense that something is not quite right in this town.  And it isn't.  Claysville has a compact with Mr. D., and a doorway to the underworld - that just happens to lie under the funeral home.

I did like the characters in this book.  They are engaging and whether you love them or hate them, they have virtues and flaws that make them believable.  Maylene Barrow, what little we do see of her, is a stoic woman who believes in the importance of her role in this town.  I liked her, and felt bad for her having to leave this legacy to Bek.  William Montgomery is secretive and I just wanted to shake him a few times.  He has answers, but he's not going to give them up without a fight.  Rebekkah Barrow is strong, yet there is a part of her that wants to lean on her childhood crush, Byron.  While Byron is as steadfast as ever.  Still in love with Bek, even though the suicide of his girlfriend - and Bek's cousin - Ella scarred them both.  Ella, while not in the book, is revealed to have a part in this story as well.  Daisha, a tormented dead teenager, plays havok with the locals.  Forever hungry.  Powerful. Maylene's daughter, Cissy, is such a bitch that I wanted to slap that smug smirk right off her face.  She expected to inherit the title of Graveminder.  She knows the rules inside and out.  However, being passed over for Bek, a girl who isn't even a blood relative, has pushed this woman to do the unthinkable.

Marr's world building is suitable spooky.  Claysville is a town that nearly no-one leaves... at least not for long, and where people don't get sick, or die from diseases.  Having children is a lottery, and there are way too many cemeteries for a town of it's size.  It's a spooky slice of Americana.  

On to the book itself.  I did love the cover art.  It was suitably creepy - and as I bought this in the lead up to Halloween, it was precicely what I was looking for.  The naked cover itself is quite attractive.  A simple tan and dark brown that is utilized on the dust jacket, and the title on the spine is a simple gold embossed font.  My only criticism of the spine text is that I would have loved them to have used the same typography for the title that was on the dust jacket.  That font is quite eerie when matched to the old sepia toned building.

Overall I would recommend Graveminder to anyone who likes paranormal or ghost stories, and I'll definitely be reading more of Marr in the future.

Until next time,

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