Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not So Much A Mystery As A Hackneyed Thriller

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (Gallery Books, 2013, 320pp.)

It’s a mistake anyone could make, really. Under extreme stress, anyone can be driven to kill. Take Jason Getty, for instance. He’s your average, law-abiding citizen who pays his taxes on time,  voluntarily picks up litter from the side of the road, and helps out perfect strangers. Overall, he’s an OK guy, if not a bit of a push-over. Okay, more than a bit of a pushover, he’s the textbook definition of a human doormat. But Jason also has a secret: there’s a body buried in his backyard. Just the one, mind you. In a fit of rage, he was once driven to kill a man who was tormenting him. After the grisly task of burying the body behind his house, Jason desperately seeks to return to a life of normalcy. He hires a landscaping company to work on his front garden, making sure that they stay far from the body-laden backyard, but imagine his surprise when the work crew unearth not one, but two dead, unidentified bodies!

I ventured into the novel thinking, for some reason, that it would be a murder mystery. Well, there is a murder. Several of them, in fact, and there is a mystery: who exactly buried those two bodies in the flowerbeds? The novel is split into two acts: Act the First sets up the action and introduces us to the three characters: Jason, whom we’ve already met; Leah, the hapless heroine and fiancee to one of the three bodies in Jason’s yard; and the man—who shall remain nameless—responsible for the decomposed state of the two unexplained bodies. The author reserves the second act, which takes up the last half of the novel, for a tedious merry-go-round chase between the three.

It’s an interesting thing to write about, the fact that anyone is capable for murder, given the  right circumstances, but—and this is a huge and unfortunate but—I found Jason’s predicament to be a bit of a stretch. Not the act of killing itself, mind you, but how he got to that point in the first place. In addition to this, the characters are only somewhat interesting. Three quarters of the way through, I realized this wasn’t a coincidence: it’s like a slasher movie with the hysterical heroine, and zero character development, and people who do stupid things just to further the plot.

Not so much a mystery as a hackneyed thriller, the cleverly titled Three Graves Full is almost like a knock-off Cohen Brothers movie, with its gore, quirky characters, and (somewhat) successful attempts at humor. Recommended only if you find yourself with some time to kill.

Click on Cover for Image Source.

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