A Grave Calling
Online Romancelandia has more than once observed the proliferation of painfully good, sweet heroines who could not possibly offend even the most delicate of sensibilities. If you are in the camp that has bemoaned this development, Julie Hall of A Grave Calling will definitely stand out for you. I can honestly say that I’ve not encountered anyone like her. In a genre where many protagonists tend to be middle class (or billionaires), Julie is a recovering alcoholic with PTSD who works at a gas station and lives in a trailer. She’s also clever, funny and a lot stronger than she thinks she is.
We learn early on that Julie has an unusual gift that has brought her more then a few difficulties. She is a dowser. However, instead of finding water sources as most with her talents do, her dowsing rods lead her straight to bodies, a gift which makes Julie a person of interest to FBI agent Garrett Pierce. Pierce is haunted by the disappearances of three young women, and he wants to stop a serial killer before any more are taken. So haunted, in fact, that he recruits Julie to help.
What ensues is a mystery both chilling and very engaging. I liked the deeply flawed heroine, and as the work she does for Pierce triggers old memories and forces her to face demons of her past, I found myself rooting for her even if I did question her judgment on occasion. When someone close to Julie betrays her by letting her secret out to the press, she has to go into hiding in order to survive – and that’s when the plot really heats up. The killer starts to get closer and closer to Julie and the suspense builds at an ever-increasing pace as Julie and Garrett crisscross the rural Washington landscape in pursuit.
Roberts does a good job of showing the claustrophobic world of witness protection and how it affects Julie. The growing tension in the suspense portion of the story is well-matched by the increasing sexual tension between Julie and Garrett Pierce. Garrett, a widower, seems to find calm and healing with his prickly and often difficult witness/body locator, and this eventually blossoms into romance. Sometimes the power imbalance in May-December romances can work against them, but in this case, both leads have survived terribly traumatic events in their pasts and seeing them find healing together felt believable. It also helps that the author shows some of the awkwardness an agent might encounter when falling for someone who is helping him on a case.
One thing I did find difficult with this book was deciding how to classify it. In many ways, it’s a romantic suspense thriller. We have the romantic leads on the trail of a killer, plenty of danger and romance and some real suspense. The dowsing for bodies definitely adds more than a hint of the supernatural to the story, but even with that strong paranormal element, this one felt very much like a thriller to me. I suspect readers of romantic suspense, even if they’re not normally into paranormal, might enjoy this one very much.
At one point, I felt like serial killer books were getting old, and frankly, I have to admit that I’d read more than a few weakly written ones. However, A Grave Calling is well done and I enjoyed the various twists and turns of the stories. If you’re like me, you’ll think you’ve figured out the culprit about halfway through – and you’ll be wrong.