>> Saturday, March 31, 2012
TITLE: The Restorer
AUTHOR: Amanda Stevens
SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: Book 1 in the Graveyard Queen series (there is a short story prequel)
Amelia Gray has always been aware of ghosts, and now she travels all over the South cleaning up forgotten or abandoned graveyards. When an enigmatic yet haunted police detective asks for her help to trap a serial killer, their growing attraction constitutes the very gravest of threats.I thought when I first picked this one up, after a really intriguing review at AAR, that I hadn't read Stevens before. Turns out I did, a few years ago, one of one of her Intrigues, Silent Storm. It fell in the great idea, not-so-great execution category. I liked The Restorer much better.
Amelia Gray can see ghosts. So can her father, and he's taught her some very simple rules to live by. First and foremost, she must not acknowledge the ghosts when she sees them. If she does, her father warns her, they will haunt her, desperate as they are to communicate with the living, sucking out her life energy. And related to this, she must run far, far away from any person she meets who is haunted by ghosts. Because seeing ghosts isn't this harmless thing; there are some really dangerous things out there, and you don't want to invite them to focus on you.
Another thing her dad taught Amelia is that ghosts don't go on hallowed ground. This has led to a pretty successful career as a cemetery restorer, as cemeteries often are hallowed ground, which is handy. It is while on one of her jobs, restoring a graveyard attached to a Southern university, that she runs into trouble. First, a body is found at the cemetery, one that has been killed quite gruesomely. Then she's asked for help by the detective in charge, John Devlin, who wants to check out the extensive photographs she took of the scene of the crime not long before the body was left there. Amelia is very attracted to John, but the problem is that he's one of the haunted, followed around by the ghosts of a woman and a small girl, his dead wife and daughter.
Will Amelia follow her dad's rules or will she be unable to keep away from John? What do you think?
I liked this. The romance was a bit overwrought and John a wee bit too tortured, but it was a good start, and I did enjoy the rest of the book. I especially liked the very creepy, chilling atmosphere of the cemetery and Amelia's work. Her knowledge of graveyards and tomb monuments and imagery comes into play in the investigation of the crimes (yes, that body is only the first), and that was fascinating.
The gothic tone is helped by the writing style, heavy on the foreshadowing. There are loads of "if only I had known that...", which I quite liked, as they reminded me a bit of some of my favourite Barbara Michaels.
I also thought the murder plot was well done. There's secret societies and mysterious catacombs and a past crime that must be related to the current ones, and I was intrigued. I thought Stevens came close to the line between exciting and over-the-top several times, but IMO, she stayed on the right side. And the solution was pretty cool. I kind of suspected who it was that was responsible, but the why made me catch my breath.
This will clearly a continuing series and there wasn't that much closure on some things, such as the romance and John's haunting, but I was quite ok with it. I was a bit less happy with other things left unexplained, such as hints at dark, dark secrets in Amelia's family, or say, why her friend Temple was so mysteriously uncomfortable with talk of the murders. The first felt a bit exploitative (as in, it made no sense that they wouldn't be revealed here, only that the author wants us to buy the other books), the latter felt like red herrings the author dropped in and forgot to explain (a proper red herring must have a perfectly good explanation, and a fair author must give that explanation to her readers). It felt a bit clumsy.
MY GRADE: A B-.