Grave Beginnings, a Grave Report novel by RR Virdi
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In compliance with the Federal Trade Commission (see paragraph about “material connections”), I hereby disclose that I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Now that the obligatory disclaimer is out of the way, on to the much-belated review.
How much-belated, you might ask?
Well…. Just for starters, I started writing this review back in 2015 and only just now got around to finishing it.
Then there’s the matter of when I actually read the book….
Yeah…. I need to work at that just a bit.
But I’m going to write this review, dangit! In between those moments when a child barges into my room to ask me to look up three million other things for him, of course.
Anyway, you wanted the honest review, not my rambling.
In the interest of that honesty, I should point out that I have not read detective fiction in ages. And I have a strong preference against big city stuff.
So if I’d come across this book while browsing generally, I most likely would have passed it by. Such a decision says absolutely nothing about the book, by the way, and a great deal about me; there are far too many worthy books out there, and far too little time to read them all, that even the most avid of readers is forced to make this choice now and again.
However, I thought the premise was interesting enough that, when I was asked if I was willing to review it, I could easily find the time to give it a go.
Ah, who am I kidding? I practically jumped at the opportunity!
And thus, review it I will.
Vincent Graves is not your normal detective. He is, in fact, a paranormal detective.
He is recruited to investigate odd deaths with even odder causes; if there is even a hint of the supernatural, he’s the man to call. He has solved a total of thirteen such deaths in his career, each within a day or two of taking the case.
The only death he has been unable to solve is his own.
That’s right. Our esteemed detective has been dead for some time. But he is not a ghost, per se. At least the reader has never encountered him as such. No, he possesses the bodies of his clients, the supernaturally deceased, to investigate their deaths, and this entire first novel is told while he is roaming around inside one Norman Smith… whose name Vincent doesn’t actually discover until near the end of Chapter One.
This particular lapse–failing to mention the client/vehicle’s name until so late–is not the bad thing it would be in other books. Rather, it is the first clue he receives in being given the case. It is only the first of many things Vincent must learn about his client over the course of the book while he continues to masquerade as Norman.
While roaming about Manhattan, Vincent must convince Norman’s friends that he actually is Norman while still collecting those clues. Sometimes Norman’s own memories pop up and help, and sometimes Vincent has to wade through the leftover memories from his other clients. And sometimes those memories are no help at all, and he must bargain with other players in this game, natural cops and supernatural goblins alike—and whatever his “handler” Church is–to give him the information he needs.
And sometimes it isn’t enough, such as when he runs into the very thing responsible for Norman’s death.
I would not be too quick to call Vincent likeable–the effect thirteen different dead people’s memories floating around in his metaphorical skull has on his mental capacity probably has something to do with that–but he certainly made for an interesting character. Like I said, I used to read detective fiction a lot, and the paranormal/possession angle was, for me, a unique twist that made it worth getting back into the genre.
The story definitely drew me in. In fact, there was one part where I was disappointed that the case seemed about to wrap up, because… no more Vincent Graves adventures to read about. Then I realized I was only a very small percentage of the way into the story. If it was a game, I would’ve been exploring the Disc One Final Dungeon right about then.
Like I said, I’m not too keen on the big city stuff for personal reasons. Stories set in the medieval period don’t bother me, but modern-day New York?
Not much of a con, though, as this is more a personal preference. Not every book is perfect for every reader, after all.
When I first read the sample, and then the review copy, I noticed several typographical errors, particularly towards the end. Far too many of these areas wound up Punctuated. For. Emphasis. because of such errors.
The book has long since been updated and I am happy to report that these errors have all but vanished… at least that I, off-duty that I am, have not found them.
Suspension of disbelief.
The biggest problem I had with the book was actually right at the beginning, when Vincent was escaping from the coffin in Norman’s body. I just could not, and still can’t, wrap my head around how he pulled off the escape.
The first time I read it, the form of the escape was actually implied. The book was since updated to describe the escape, but I still have trouble visualizing it. I mean, Norman wasn’t the only body in that coffin; wouldn’t it be awful cramped to be flipping around in there?
Knowing Vincent’s supernatural abilities, particularly the ability to enhance his host’s physical abilities, certainly helps, but this scene is still very weird for me.
Very few, if any, books will appeal to every reader out there, but if you’re a fan of detective fiction or paranormal fiction, you should give this one a try. It was a great read, and I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of the next book, Grave Measures…. which apparently takes place in an asylum.
July 2018 Update:
Some time ago, Grave Beginnings author R, R, Virdi had offered signed bookmarks on FaceBook to help promote the series (which is now a trilogy though I vaguely recall hearing that there were plans for more titles).
I had originally requested 20 of those bookmarks, believing that to be a suitably large yet manageable number that I could give away at the college bookstore where I worked at the time. Sadly, this was not to be (as it turns out, only vendor-contracted giveaways were allowed 😦 ), so instead I began including a bookmark within some of the books I’ve scattered about town for Bookcrossing.
Between Bookcrossing and the few I handed out when I attended the 2018 Barrowman Writing Workshop (and I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate John taking one 😀 ), I am finally down to 2 bookmarks.
Should I ask Ronnie if he’s willing to send out more bookmarks? Or maybe I should try making some to promote my own work the same way…. but first I need to come up with a design….