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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason
Published by Gallery Books ISBN 9781451685039
Hardcover, $24.99, 320 pages
Jamie Mason's debut novel, Three Graves Full, has a doozy of an  opening line:
"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in the backyard."
How can one resist reading onward? Jason Getty killed a man and buried his body in the backyard. But that is not the immediate problem. The landscaping crew that Getty hired to put plants in his front yard found a dead body, and it's not the one that Getty buried.

The police arrive and they find a second body buried in the front yard; again, not the one that Getty buried. Getty starts to panic, and like a cross between an Edgar Allen Poe story and a Cohen brothers movie, this novel turns the screws tighter.

The detectives find a bloody purse inside one of the walls, belonging to the woman who used to live in Getty's house: she is one of the dead bodies. The other body belonged to a guy who had been missing for a few years. Using a luminol light, they show Getty where the crime took place in the master bedroom. But there is also blood in the living room, where Getty killed a man who tormented and bullied him.

Getty is a quiet, lonely guy since his wife died. He's never been in trouble, never been violent. He meets a man who starts showing up unannounced at Getty's home, barging his way into Getty's life. This guy is bad news, a punk thief who eventually steals not only from Getty, but keeps evidence framing Getty for a robbery at his former father-in-law's mansion.

Getty panics, believing he needs to move his dead body before the police find that one too. More people get involved in the story: the two detectives, the dead man in the front yard's fiancee, the man who killed the two people in the front yard and pretty soon you are racing through the pages to see just how this thing ends.

Mason writes beautifully, as in this sentence about Getty staying close to home after his wife died.
"Ultimately, it would have been better for Jason to have undone, rather than simply lengthen, the apron strings to his original hometown."
There is a lot of action here- chase scenes, fight scenes- and all of it had me biting my nails to the quick. Only one thing struck a false note. There is a terrific fight scene at Getty's house, where there are chairs overturned, and a door is smashed in, but when a detective goes to the home, he fails to see the broken door or the trashed living room. An experienced cop would have seen the broken door before he went in. Maybe I'm being too picky.

Three Graves Full takes an average guy who makes a bad decision and has to extricate his way out, all the while digging himself a bigger hole. Mason kept my attention as I wondered what would happen to Getty, and her ending was a satisfying one indeed. She is an exciting new voice in suspense novels.

rating 4 of 5

Jamie Mason's website is here.

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