29 August 2020
#Blogtour #Review - Grave Secrets by Alice James
Solaris, 3 September 2020
Available as: PB, 320pp, e
Source: PB advance copy
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of Grave Secrets to consider for review, and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
'That very night, I planned to raise Bredon Havers from the dead...'
This first volume (of many, I hope) in The Lavington Windsor mysteries proved a real breath of fresh air. Taking in necromancy, zombies, vampires and protagonist Lavington 'Toni' Windsor's quest for a boyfriend who... just isn't rubbish... the story is set in rural Staffordshire in a reality slightly different from ours, one where vampires are grudgingly tolerated in Europe, but not in the USA. Consequently many have come looking for refuge - and naturally, they need homes.
Toni's day job, as an estate agent, involves meeting this need. As you'd expect there are some rather special requirements. And not unsurprisingly, there are also those who object to the vampires' presence. Sometimes, they object rather forcefully.
Estate agent by day, necromancer by night, Toni finds both sides of her life coming together. And there may just be progress on the boyfriend front as well.
We see her juggling work, relationships, caring for an elderly neighbour and fitting in time for her weird hobby down at the graveyard. It's a very modern life, down to fending off the gropey boss and coping with the works do. Oh, and conjuring up the dead offers some benefits - so when Toni's brother, a police constable, needs help clearing up a murder, she's on hand for that, too.
The book packs so much in: a resourceful and determined heroine, some pretty steamy sex scenes, political violence and even organised crime. Also some epic fights, which frequently see Toni lose her clothing (seriously - count the number of times her outfits are ruined). Behind all this there are hints about Toni's own past - clearly there are mysteries there to be unpacked in future books - and a very sad story of corruption and abuse of power.
Toni is a likeable protagonist who comes into her own when forced to get closer than she'd like to a pack of vampires. While they may be clients, Toni doesn't exactly get on well with most of them, so negotiating the web of semi-feudal obligations that fall on her as part of the coterie is not easy (as is avoiding breakfast - BEING breakfast, that is). It's actually a pretty thoughtful examination of the vampires' way of life and involves a lot of credible worldbuilding, aided by the book's being grounded in Toni's believable, everyday life.
All in all, an involving and fun book and it's top be hoped there will be many more to come.
Buy the book! You can get it from your local bookshop (and they really need your support right now) or order online from Hive Books (who support highstreet bookshops) or from Blackwell's, Foyles, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.
And don't forget all the stops coming up on the tour - see the poster below.
Finally, for even more more information about Grave Secrets, see the Solaris website here.