“There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”
A year after killing a man and burying him in his backyard, Jason Getty is just starting to come to terms with his actions and to get a handle on the guilt. As he begins to think that the body in the backyard will just be his dark secret, a landscaping crew unexpectedly uncovers two other graves in the front yard to Jason’s surprise. As the police swoop in to investigate these bodies, Jason struggles with the knowledge that in the backyard, there is another grave with the body of a man he killed and the police are getting closer to it.
I’m a big fan of crime novels that follow characters other than the police. Although there are some chapters from the detective’s perspectives, Jason is the central focus. The author reveals early on the events leading to Jason killing a man; Jason’s plight is somewhat understandable (in that Jason was the Good Guy, the dead man was a Bad Guy) but it is hard to sympathize with a man who has the personality of a damp dishtowel. It eventually gets tiring to read about Jason and his spineless inaction, but fortunately there are other characters interspersed in between his chapters. Leah’s fiancé Reid has been missing for three years, and she gets involved when it is determined that one of the graves holds his body. We also meet the man who owned the house before Jason, and then there are the token detective and police chapters for extra information.
The first half of the book starts off strong with a very engaging premise and plenty of tension, but the writing begins to deteriorate as the book continues. Some of the faster paced sequences towards the end required multiple readings to figure out exactly what is going on. The actions of the three main (non-police) characters also start to seem like bumbling antics after a while. While I guess it could be argued that these are ordinary people placed in extraordinarily tense situations who can’t think clearly, if you had a laugh track or circus music playing in the background, some of the situations would resemble a sitcom more than a high stakes drama. He killed someone! She’s looking for her dead fiancé and stumbles into a grave instead! Someone gets a shovel to the head by accident! Laughs all around!
Finally, there’s an anthropomorphized dog named Tessa. I love dogs, I think they can be very intelligent, have better senses than humans, and we don’t know what exactly goes on in their heads. I don’t even mind anthropomorphizing to some extent (Tessa thankfully doesn’t talk), but when key plot points and even plot resolution start to revolve around a dog’s human-like actions, I start to roll my eyes. At one point, Tessa is the reason that the supposedly overly observant Detective Tim Bayard notices a pool of blood on the floor.
Overall, Three Graves Full is an enjoyable, quick mystery with an atypical premise. This is Jamie Mason’s first novel, and I would definitely be interested in reading her next book to see what she comes up with.