Book Review: “Three Graves Full” by Jamie Mason

If only Alfred Hitchcock were still in Hollywood to direct a movie of Three Graves Full! He would have been delighted to discover a book containing all of his signature elements: psychological menace, harrowing scenes, relevant horror, black humor, and absurdity.

GravesSeventeen months before the story opens, Jason Getty, a Milquetoast par excellence, murdered and buried a man in his backyard. Surviving the gamut of revulsion, guilt, and fear, he came to terms with his horrific deed and returned from the brink of madness. Then a gardening crew discovers a man buried at the corner of his home, and the police find a woman’s grave at the opposite corner. By day’s end, Jason’s haven, a small house on the outskirts of town, swarms with police, detectives, and turmoil.

Revealing that Gary Harris, Jason’s victim, was evil incarnate gives nothing away because readers quickly realize that Jason is not a cold-blooded murderer, that he must have been pushed well beyond his limits. But how? Since Mason paces her story well, readers have plenty of time to speculate about Harris’ odious methods.

Until then, as she does with each character, Mason rounds out Jason’s nature with sympathetic qualities. Somewhere along the line … Jason has suffered a courage-ectomy and is ashamed of his cowardice: He’d lost count of his regrets, but kept a running tally of all that his yellow streak had cost him over the years. Jason seeks solace in the forest contemplating an element of Mother Nature that would send most people fleeing in the opposite direction. Because Jason purchased the house long after the bodies were buried, he is exonerated; even so, he is perceptive enough to realize that seasoned detective Tim Bayard is … the man to beat. Jason’s madness begins anew as he tries to decide if he should leave Harris buried and hope for the best or move his body.

As Detective Bayard and Ford Watts, his assistant, investigate, they pull secondary characters into the vortex of madness, delineated by yellow crime scene tape, around Jason’s house. Bart Montgomery proudly abides by the law, but resents … the sheer stupidity of people who couldn’t admit that there were, from time to time, circumstances beyond a man’s control. Leah Tamlin considers herself practical, yet she wasted years on the altar of romantic martyrdom. And Gary Harris, for a dead man, does a fine job of plunging all concerned into further mayhem.

To protect this genre from being as vapid as Hollywood horror movies, the author must include a counterbalance of sanity. Tessa, a dog who arrives at the murder scene wearing a … pointy, foil party hat on [her] head, in honor of her birthday, provides that balance. Why a dog? Because, except for the detectives and police officers, she is the book’s only character with a sane viewpoint, especially after the insanity explodes from Jason’s yard into the forest.

Mason’s solid, riveting tale, for the most part, moves right along. Harris’ evil emanates off the pages, and a few of the forest scenes are Hitchcockian creepy. Occasionally, however, an annoying observation interrupts the action. As Tessa tries to determine the direction to the forest, for example, a paragraph begins: Computers have no forethought. They can calculate at terrifying speeds without any ability at all to leapfrog a gap if the next step isn’t weighted by logic and the proper syntax. Of course dogs don’t think like computers, readers irritably mutter, because they are thoroughly engrossed and worried—for good reason. Like Hitchcock’s movies, the ending may not be what readers expect, but Mason follows through with each character to a definite conclusion.

Acclaim for Three Graves Full includes: 1) Booklist TopTen Crime Novel of the Year, 2) Indie Next List Selection, and 3) Bookspan Top New Book of the Year. Without doubt, these are just the beginning of writing honors for Jamie Mason.

AUTHOR BIO: Jamie Mason grew up in Washington, D.C. Her two critically acclaimed novels, Three Graves Full and Monday’s Lie, have tended toward the psychological suspense of whydunnit over whodunit. She’s most often reading and writing, but in the life left over, she enjoys films, Formula 1 racing, football, traveling, and conversely, staying home. Jamie lives with her husband and two daughters in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact:

View From My Catio
Buddy, T.C.P.E.
(Tuxedo Cat Par Excellence)

catioGreeting Fans and Friends: Despite last month’s picture of Tooley and me helping ourselves to a snack, we really are not allowed on the kitchen counters. However, I knew that my duty was to protect our weekly food supply while Mary put away the groceries. One never knows who might have followed her home with the intent of snitching the feline vittles. Every day, the news has stories about such dastardly deeds, but not in my house! Mary was not pleased when she saw me, but seemed to understand my intent. Therefore, she delayed my supper for only three minutes rather than the usual five minutes after I’ve broken a rule.

Purrs and Cream,
The Buds

Written by Mary Ickes