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Words for Thought (Short Fiction Review)
Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest is a mystery featuring a psychic and a police detective working together to solve a cold murder case. While it isn’t as dark as many of Cherie’s previous novels, a cast of quirky characters and quick pacing make this a delightful read I couldn’t put down.
I’ll be honest, I was hesitant when Jason asked me if I’d write reviews for Apex Magazine. Flashbacks from my years in college as an English major ran through my mind. Feeling forced to read books I didn’t like. Never having time to indulge in the ones I love.
No, thank you! That doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.
Then he told me he had a new paranormal mystery by Cherie Priest.
I said “Yes!” before he had time to tell me the title.
Over the past year, cozy mysteries and contemporary romances have become my comfort reads. My brain has craved books that are light and humorous. Dare I say, even fluffy. And I’m not ashamed of that. The world has been so chaotic and horrid for more than a year now, with each news cycle another circle of hell, that I can’t imagine spending my reading time—my mental escape time!—reading books that are dark and heavy. Give me the light!
Enter Grave Reservations, Cherie Priest’s first foray into quirky paranormal mysteries. She’s better known for writing darker books that plunge us straight into horror, and I have long been a fan of her writing. The Toll is wonderful! Boneshaker. Maplecroft. Bloodshot. Yes. Yes. Yes! Pretty much, if Cherie writes it, I want to read it! So when I found out that her newest book is exactly the type I have been gravitating towards during the pandemic, I was an automatic yes. I’m happy to report that Cherie doesn’t disappoint!
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Grave Reservations starts with an unreliable psychic/travel agent rescheduling a customer’s flight because she had a bad feeling. A bad feeling she couldn’t resist. One that forced her client onto a different flight with a layover in Atlanta. This travel agent is Leda Foley and her impulse to change Grady Merritt’s flight saved his life when the plane he should have been on crashed. When Grady, a police detective, questions Leda about why she changed his flight, how she knew, Leda is flustered. Yeah, sometimes she knows things, but it isn’t reliable or completely accurate. She didn’t know the plane was going to crash. She just knew something bad would happen to Grady if he was on that flight. So she changed it. She isn’t a professional psychic! She’s a travel agent! Despite her protestations, Grady thinks Leda has an ability, and he wonders if she could maybe help him with a murder investigation that is quickly growing cold. Completely under the radar of course.
What I loved about Grave Reservations were the characters. From Leda’s relationship with her best friend Niki to the crew at Castaways to Grady’s teenage daughter Molly, the side characters in Grave Reservations bring the novel to life. They add humor and lightness in a story that could feel incredibly grim. Niki worms her way into riding along with Grady and Leda as they reinterview suspects and she supports her friend in every way possible. They have the type of female best friend relationship that includes sharing every last detail of their days and giving each other never-ending support. This is beautiful and the type of friendship I think all women need in their lives.
The crew at Castaways is another example of friends supporting each other. They embrace Leda as she struggles to find her footing with her abilities and attempts to glean new clues in the cold murder investigation of her fiancé. The bartender, Tiffany, mixes the perfect drinks and is always willing to listen. The bar manager (and Niki’s boyfriend), Matt, lets Leda keep her murder board where she collects clues in her office. And the bar owner Ben loves when Leda does “klairvoyant karaoke.” Not only does it bring in more patrons, but it helps Leda strengthen her psychic abilities.
Grady’s daughter Molly is that know-it-all teen who feels they know better than their parents but still needs their comfort and support. All of these characters come together to form a web of support for Leda and Grady in their investigation in a way that feels genuine and wonderful, and honestly, after the past year, so important.
Of course, the novel isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. Grady is investigating the murder of an unscrupulous father and his son, and Leda suspects these murders are tied to that of her fiancé Tod. As if that weren’t bad enough, more bodies pile up as they prod closer to the truth. Obviously, the two are rattling the murderer, but they still don’t know who it is. Leda is having more and more flashes of her psychic abilities. Or she thinks she is, but the results are incredibly painful migraines and information that is more frustrating than it is helpful. As the novel draws toward the end, the pieces begin to click into place for Leda, but is it too late?
I loved the way this book explored extended social networks, finding a belief in your own abilities, and how hard it can be to park in the city! Leda and Grady are a winning team, even if neither of them was quite sure of the other, and I would love to see more books featuring these characters.
I have no reservations saying that Grave Reservations was a hit for me!