Book Review

A “Down and Dirty” Review

Liliana Hart released the fourth book in the J J Graves mystery series this week, with great success. I’m a fan of Hart, so I pre-ordered the Kindle ebook in preparation for my trip to Ottawa, but read it in one sitting the day it was released – a day before my trip. Oops.

Lucky for me, I was looking for something to write for today’s post, so here’s a book review for you.

The book opens with an excerpt from the Bible, Revelations 20:9:

“And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.”

This was very exciting, and I was quite looking forward to a drama-filled, action-packed novel. This is not exactly what I got.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the J J Graves series. Similar to her Whiskey series, Hart creates a sassy, fun protagonist that isn’t your typical Strong Female Character ™. She is flawed but intelligent, addicted to coffee, and an equal partner in her relationship with her flawed but intelligent significant other. She’s a real woman, someone the reader can either identify with herself, or with someone she knows. She’s a wise-cracker, and certainly fun to hang out with.

The previous three books in this series were for the most part dedicated to the story. The mystery aspect was logical and well laid out, and the characters were well developed over the course of the books. The side-plots were introduced and progressed, and our interest was piqued. In this fourth installment, though the mystery was fun and the clues laid out, at times I found the story to be rushed, and occasionally overshadowed by a long-awaited wedding.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy as much in this book was that after the first three, I’ve come to expect a certain quality of writing from Hart – I really like her style, but I’m not so sure she brought it with this book. There were moments of repetitiveness, and the occasional moment of being extra-sensitive on the topic of cops – the dangers, the strength, what have you – and though I understand it, I don’t necessarily like it in what I’m reading unless it’s part of the character. To me, the moments of praise were more Ms Hart than Dr Graves.

Deus ex machina was employed a few times – people showing up right place right time, clues dropping from the sky, etcetera – and it disappointed me a bit because from reading her other books, I feel Hart doesn’t need to employ this. She’s skilled with building mystery and stories. It made me wonder if she’d planned a much longer book but was limited by page or time constraints.

Finally, the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. I knew there was going to be a wedding, of course, but the mystery portion was solved too tidily. The reader wasn’t given enough time with them to really engage with what was going on. The punctuation with wedding things wasn’t the problem so much as the lack of action to be punctuated by. I felt as if Hart had the crime planned brilliantly in her head but didn’t put enough on the page for the reader to really get into it. Also, we’re told again and again about the wedding of the two protagonists that the readers have been waiting for, and instead of being invited ourselves, we’re given the protagonist’s musings on love, life, and death. I wouldn’t have minded not being invited if the entire book hadn’t been filled with reminders that the wedding was happening. Because it was, though, the letdown at only seeing two pages’ worth of internal monologuing was a little irksome.

Hart has created characters that are great to chum around with. They’re smart but not too smart, and the relationships are realistic. This book missed the mark a little for me, though I’m sure I’ll read it again. The JJ Graves series as a whole is still enjoyable, and I will continue to read these books just because I love the characters. I’m glad the wedding will be over and done with next time, though, so Hart can get back to what she does well – murder.

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