Leslie Conzatti over at Upstream Writer put together a top 10 list of moments from the Grave Report Series (the first two books). I’m sharing her first two, and then giving you a link to the rest. If you’ve read the series, do you agree with her? What other moments would you consider. If you haven’t read the series, maybe this will give you a good introduction and spike your interest.
At last! It’s here! Fans of The Grave Report series have been waiting anxiously for the latest installment of the series, Grave Dealings, for a long time. It was worth the wait. R.R. Virdi brings Vincent Graves to life again in another great story. Yes, I had an Advanced Reader Copy so that I could write the review below. (Just so you don’t think I’m trying to hide anything.) I can tell you how much I like it by saying that the first thing I did was order a paperback copy so that I had the book in my collection. The enjoyment of the book is well worth the price.
I have got to find a different place to read the next Grave Report book. Seriously. The edge of my seat is so worn down from this most recent book that I’m sure I’d keep falling on the floor going through another action-packed story like Grave Dealings from the Grave Report. Grave Dealings lives up to, no surpasses the standards of excellence that Virdi has established in “Grave Beginnings” and “Grave Measures,” as Vincent Graves comes back for another amazing case.
For those of you not familiar with the basic concept, Vincent Graves is a paranormal detective with a bit of a twist. He’s dead. Graves isn’t even really his name. He doesn’t know what his name is. He comes back to life in the body of the victim of a paranormal crime with the responsibility to bring the paranormal criminal to justice – which is a gentle way of saying he has to kill them. He arrives in the most unusual circumstances, depending on how the dearly departed was disposed of. In Grave Dealings, Graves wakes up sinking into a watery grave. He has to extricate himself from his bindings, swim back to the surface, and then quickly find the nearest church where he meets his contact, Church, who gives Graves all kinds of information, as long as it isn’t about him or the case. In this episode, though, Graves is hounded by another monster who tries to kill him even before the case starts. And the fun begins.
(Note: there may be spoilers from here on out. Be forewarned)
Daniel Kim has been murdered by unknown paranormal creatures and dumped into the ocean. What better way for Vincent Graves to begin a case than falling deeper and deeper into the water. He gets out of the water, and begins his quest to solve his body’s murder. While Graves is trying to do that, other forces are seeking to kill him. Along the way he runs into an old friend who apparently had feelings for the person who used to inhabit the body Graves is using now. This makes for some awkward relationship issues along the way. We’re introduced to a new character who brings Graves and company into the 21st century with her computer hacking and blogging skills.
Graves and his old friend outwit the monsters trying to kill him, and discover who had put the hit out on him only to realize that this was part of an old deal comes back to haunt him, and he gets dragged to a paranormal ball in the Neravene. (Do be careful who you deal with, it will come back to haunt you in the most inconvenient ways.) During the ball, his services become a highly valued gift, when he proves himself in a life or death match; meanwhile, his “date” to the ball causes all sorts of trouble in what was a “coming out” party for her.
Still, the case goes on and the time Graves has left keeps dropping. Graves puts it all together when he notices how many friends of the meat skin he’s using seem to have been unduly successful, and yet, still were dying. In the end, Graves takes on the monsters killing Daniel Kim and his friends off and crushes them, solving the case so that he can say good bye to friends old and new and get ready to move onto the next case.
As you read through this book, you’ll realize that Virdi is holding a mirror up to society, and to each of us. What are our dreams? What are our ambitions? What would we do to accomplish those dreams? What kind of deals would we cut to gain success. You cannot read this book without reflecting on those questions, and the answers might scare you. Still Virdi does this in such a skillful manner that you don’t realize that you’ve done it until after you’ve finished reading the book.
As we get ready for the launch of Grave Dealings, I need to ask – have you read the first book in the Grave Report titled “Grave Beginnings.” This is our introduction to Vincent Graves and here we learn about Church and other members of the ensemble. Thrill to the chase from the enchanted fire tiger and no, he didn’t set that fire. (That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.)
My full review of Grave Beginnings is here: Grave Beginnings – Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Die
I’ve become an E. A. Copen Fan. If she writes it, I’m reading it! You may have caught my first review of her first book, Guilty By Association. If you haven’t, I provided a convenient link for you to check it out. Guilty By Association is the first Judah Black book. Book number four, Playing With Fire, has just gone live, so I’m now allowed to release my review of this book. The title of this post should make it clear that I love this book! This review has minor spoilers, but you still have to read it for the important part of the story!
Judah Black is back and you’ll want to get it soon! In the 4th installment of the Judah Black series, Playing with Fire, Judah’s called to the scene of a fire, and runs into a startling situation as she sees two friends, Gideon Reed and Ed, fighting to the death. When she arrives, one of the friends turns on her and the fun begins. As the fight continues, Sal, Judah’s werewolf boyfriend and mentor to her werewolf son, jumps into the fray and is severely injured by the blade swung by Reed. Ed was singed by the fire thrown by Reed. In the confusion after Sal’s injury, the sword slinger and fire flinger escapes.
As the investigation begins, Judah is pitted against a group called the “Tribulation Adventists” – a so-called Christian fundamentalist organization and Reed is in cahoots with them. The problem this group poses becomes personal for Ed as he reveals that Mara has come under the sway of this group which ostensibly seeks to include supernaturals in the ranks of Christianity. We meet Espinoza who is part of the Concho County task force for Supernaturals, a group created by the sheriff to help Judah. As the investigation continues, Judah discovers treachery at high levels of government and, in the process, we learn a bit about how she got transferred to Paint Rock, Texas.
While Sal lies wounded in the hospital, we realize that the sword that Reed struck him with is enchanted, and becomes a part of the struggle for power between Judah and another old nemesis. She learns a startling secret about this sword and why it’s become the centerpiece of this battle. Meanwhile, because Sal is dealing with his enchanted wounds, we see Ed transforming into a major player who’s beginning to come of age in this story. I really enjoyed the development of his character in this book.
This is the most intense Judah Black story so far, and you won’t be disappointed. Important people die in this story – I won’t tell you who. You’ll have to read the book to find out. While Copen doesn’t go on a killing spree of Gearge R.R. Martin proportions, I teared up as old “friends” died. Magick flows throughout the book, sometimes from those whom you’d least expect to show it. And, in a horrifying turn of events, extreme measures are taken to save the life of one of the characters. This book was well worth waiting for. I recommend it highly.
While there are a few spoilers in this review, I’ve tried to avoid major spoilers. I wish I could say more about what happens! There are two personal issues I need to point out: 1) I’m one of the few readers who has actually lived in Paint Rock. I’m predisposed to like these stories. The Paint Rock of the book is different from the Paint Rock I lived in – but that makes sense given the whole back story and situation. 2) I’m always leery when people start bringing in “Christian fundamentalist” organizations as the bad guy. Followers of Christ are “my people” and as the Tribulation Adventists were introduced, all sorts of warning bells rang in my head. Copen deals with the issues in a very respectful manner as she unveils the true dynamics of this group. My personal commentary on this is that it’s easy for any manipulative group to claim to be a “Christian” group by taking a few verses of things Jesus said out of context and using them to control others. Copen revealed the manipulation in a way that shows this group isn’t really a Christian group. (I guess that’s a bit of a spoiler, but I did it anyway.)
“Welcome to Paint Rock” is asign that signals you’re entering a very small town in west Texas. How small is the town? The sign is painted on both sides. Ok, that’s a bad joke, but you get the idea. The people in Paint Rock are wonderful people, but it’s a small town. I used to tell people trying to find me when I lived there, “Drive out to the middle of nowhere, and take a left.” Imagine my surprise to begin reading Guilty by Association by E. A. Copen and finding out that the Judah Black novels are set in Paint Rock, Texas. (You had me at “Paint Rock,” E. A.)
Paint Rock is a different town from the one I knew and loved. As the truth came out that Vampires, Werewolves, and Fae lived among us, the government had to do something. Someone took a map, put their finger in the middle of nowhere, moved it left slightly, and decided that Paint Rock was the perfect town to use to isolate the Supernatural Beings. Each group re-formed the area of the town that they settled in to their liking. It would be easy to look upon the new Paint Rock and channel Obi Wan: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” Yet as Guilty by Association shows, evil is not caused by form. People who aren’t “supernatural” can look pretty bad too.
Paint Rock was the end of the line for BSI agents. (That’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigations.) And so we see Judah Black living there on assignment with her last chance. Doing normal things. Like laundry at the laundromat. And keeping knowledge of her son away from everyone. Only that day, the laundromat was a crime scene that would lead Judah Black on a hunt for a vicious killer. A werewolf is splattered all over the laundromat and Judah has to begin the hunt while getting her boy ready for school, all in dirty clothes to boot. It was not going to be a good day.
While investigating the murder, Judah and Detective Tindall, her unwilling partner in the investigation uncover the disappearance of three children – one werewolf, one vampire, and one fae. The missing werewolf is the nephew of the murdered werewolf and suspicion begins to rest on him as the abductor. People soon learn that talking to Judah Black is dangerous to their health and it gets even harder for her to gain information. Her neighbor, a war veteran and a werewolf, steps in to help her during this time.
Things turn to the worst for Judah when her son is kidnapped as well. Death, destruction, and mayhem continue to follow Judah until the end of the book. By the time it’s complete, Judah has managed to make enemies with practically everyone in Paint Rock, and also in Eden – 22 miles to the south. Can she redeem herself by solving the murder and rescuing any of the children, including her own?
I have to admit that I might be prejudiced in favor of this book because of the setting. I have actually lived in Paint Rock, and while the overall building set up may have changed because of the circumstances of the story, I relived some good days I had there while reading. The story is gripping, E.A. Copen spins a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. She introduces you to a great idea in this book: if all these fantasy creatures really existed, how would we be able to live side by side in the world with them? I highly recommend this book and have enjoyed the next volumes in the series so far.
E.A. Copen is the author of the Judah Black novels and the forthcoming space opera, Broken Empire. She’s an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and other genre fiction. When she’s not chained to her keyboard, she may be found time traveling on the weekends with her SCA friends. She lives in beautiful southeast Ohio with her husband and two kids, at least until she saves up enough to leave the shire and become a Jedi. (This last paragraph taken from her Amazon page)
I can’t imagine anything worse than waking up dead. Well, ok, you could wake up dead in a mental hospital. Want it worse? You could wake up dead in a mental hospital, in a strait jacket, and find out that one of the patients is someone who worked with you in the past…and that’s the reason she’s in the hospital. Yep, the wise-cracking Vincent Graves is in trouble again.
Grave Measures is the second book in The Grave Report series and R. R. Virdi outdoes himself in this tale. Patients are dying without explanation and Vincent Graves comes back as one of the dead patients. (Can you imagine the confusion for the staff and the other patients who knew that Charles had died. Who would they tell without someone thinking they were crazy?) At least this time it didn’t take Vincent too long to learn something about his body. And when he runs into the mysterious Church, he’s given 44 hours to solve the paranormal crime.
Helped once again by Agent Ortiz who had didn’t realize she had worked with Graves before, you know, the new body thing, she puts Vincent in a class of guys with tattoos on their arms. They pick up a child who converses with ghosts, especially her own sister, and embark on a case that involves many trips into Virdi’s fantasy world: the Neravene. The “extra time” Graves gets to solve this case is needed because Neravene time does not run at the same level as our time. Well that, and the story gets complicated.
Graves and friends race against time knowing that anyone of them could be the next victim. They chase the killer down through long forgotten passage ways of the hospital trying to save the little girl before it’s too late. As appears to be the case with Vincent Graves, cleaning up the mess creates an even bigger mess before it’s all over. The action is hot and heavy in this story so get yourself a nice, cool glass of ice water, sit back, and enjoy the book. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Grave Measures was nominated for a Dragon Award!
You will see one more review of R.R. Virdi’s work after this one soon. Then, I will be unable to review his work until Grave Report #3 (title unknown to us common folk yet) comes out. I am expecting it this year. He is becoming one of the most well known Urban Fantasy authors around. I highly suggest you check out his books. My review of Dangerous Ways is here. In the meanwhile, Grave Beginnings was the starting point. Here’s my review of Grave Beginnings!
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Die
What do you get when you cross Mike Hammer and Jack Bauer…and then kill him? Meet Vincent Graves, a dead detective who solves crimes and isn’t afraid to bash in a few heads in the process, as long as he does it by the deadline. A real deadline it is, too. If he fails, he dies. Lon Chaney may be the man of a thousand faces, but Vincent, is the man of a thousand bodies…probably…but who knows. He keeps coming back as the victim of the crimes he solves and no one knows exactly how many crimes he’s had to take care of. Except, perhaps, his enigmatic handler, Church. Church doesn’t help Vincent much; he just gives him the time that Vincent has to solve his cases. He doesn’t tell Vincent his new “name” or even what kind of creature killed him. Did I fail to mention that Vincent is a paranormal investigator?
In Grave Beginnings, Vincent begins his short-lived case by clawing his way out of a casket that had just been buried. Then, without knowing the name of the body he has come back in, he meets Church who gives him 24, no, make that 13 hours to solve the case. In that time he has to figure out who he is, who and what killed him, and then dispatch the monster to its eternal punishment. Along the way, Vincent is joined by an FBI agent who helps him figure out what’s happening. Meanwhile, she doesn’t know he’s dead. And she doesn’t realize that they are dealing with a supernatural world until things become obvious.
Vincent and Ortiz, the FBI agent, take on this case wisecracking their way through New York City as the clock keeps winding down. Along the way they meet all kinds of supernatural creatures: some who would be just as happy to kill as help, others who are out for blood, while others just enjoy killing their prey, and Vincent and Ortiz are their prey. In the end, as destruction reigns all around them, Vincent and Ortiz make life and death decisions that ultimately end the chase. Who lives and who dies? You’ll have to read it to find out. It’s a great read and I am looking forward to more Case Files from the Grave Report.