By Alice James
- Grave Secrets
Author: Alice James
- Series: The Lavington Windsor Mysteries
- ISBN: 9781781088616
- Published: September 2020
- Pages: 300
- Format reviewed: E-Book
- Review date: 03/09/2020
- Language: English
Walk into my house and glance at my bookshelves and you will find an eclectic mix of books. My favourite genres are represented heavily in science fiction and fantasy, but I also have loads of crime, history, biographies and general fiction. This cannot be said of my sister’s shelves that bulge with books that surround one topic: vampires. How can she read vampire book after vampire book; don’t they all feel the same? Nope, vampires are a genre unto themselves and if the books are as fun as Grave Secrets by Alice James, I may just end up reading only about bloodsuckers and the necromancers who can harm them.
Toni Windsor is you average Estate Agent during the day but secretly raises the dead at night. Ever since she was a little girl, she had a fascination and inherent skill to bring the dead back to life. It as much a hobby as anything, but she has been known to aid her police officer brother in a case or two. Solving a murder can be simple if you can ask the victim themselves. Toni is not the only person with supernatural abilities in rural Staffordshire as recent legislation has made vampirism legal and many of these bloodsuckers are moving into stately homes in the region. Being undead themselves, vampires have an inherent dislike of people who can control them. Can Toni keep her secret, even when she starts dating a vampire?
Grave is a light-hearted story which happens to have more heads being ripped from bodies than you may be used to. The story centres on Toni, a likable character who seems to live her life with little direction other than to make sure she gets her nightly necromancer fix. Events transpire to get her involved in much different world than her own; that of vampires and their entourage.
Most people are aware of the ‘rules’ that surround vampires i.e. sunshine, stakes, garlic etc. James plays with these, whilst still staying true to the lore. The world building is intriguing, this is a very recognisable modern Britain but, after a vampire was found to be secretly healing people, they have been coaxed out of the shadows and into day to day society. Some people are less than happy and will even go as far as to target those businesses who work with vampires e.g. Toni’s Estate Agents. I enjoyed how similar things are to us, but with added undead.
Another fun element is the way that Toni interacts with other characters. She can be described as feisty at best, or perhaps rash. This means that she will insult those she thinks deserves it and that could be a homicidal thug or a vampire master. This leads to a lot of the humour in the book, but you do worry that Toni will go a little too far at some point.
Vampire books have a reputation of also containing some sexual elements, but it is not always the case. If you do like some fruity moments, then Grave does have them. There is almost a preoccupation with sex at times in the book as Toni often thinks about it. This is not done in a leary manner but instead is in keeping with the modern characters in the book and how they choose to live their lives (or undeaths). Without Toni’s mind wandering, you would lose so much of what makes her character fun. This is an everyday person who is involved in extraordinary events. The difference between her and us is that Toni is used to the supernatural, so she does not let things like beheadings knock her flow.
Despite the vampires, zombies, thugs and murders, Grave Secrets is a light and very enjoyable read. The key to the book’s success is the character of Toni and Gray’s intelligent world building. Somehow the idea of a lovelorn necromancer who is also an Estate Agent works. This is because Gray has developed a scenario where it all fits. I sat down and read this book in only a couple of sittings. It is that type of page turning book that never fails to entertain.
Written on 3rd September 2020 by Sam Tyler .