A couple of months ago, I was casting about for a new audiobook to listen to and it happened to be right as Goodreads was releasing its Readers Choice Awards for 2011. Melissa Marr’s novel Graveminder won Best Horror, so I decided to give it a shot.
In the story, a young woman, Rebekkah Barrow (also, 2011 Egregious Name-Spelling Award Winner), is called back to her hometown of Claysville (vaguely Ozark-y/Appalachia-y) after her grandmother is mysteriously murdered. Rebekkah has fond memories of her grandmother, following her through graveyards as she tended the graves of the dead (I mean, who doesn’t?). Because apparently, the dead in Claysville don’t always stay dead…
What transpires is a tale the restless dead, family secrets, star-crossed love, trips to the Underworld, and deals with the devil, or sort of devil, or something, I’m not really sure, because it’s never made very clear, but it’s very clear that he’s The Bad Guy.
One thing that is very clear, however, is that Graveminder is a patchwork of supernatural cliches that never rises above formula and seems to be trying very very hard to capture the same audience as Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse. Sadly, this book sinks below what I would expect for even something mediocre — mostly because I feel that Marr was lazy.
At the beginning of the story, Rebekkah contemplates her youth back in Claysville from her apartment in the Gaslight district of San Diego. That’s a hard task, because there IS no Gaslight district in San Diego. It’s Gaslamp. Do you know how long it took me to find the correct use of Gaslamp versus Gaslight? About 40 seconds on Wikipedia. To me, that’s a lazy author (and editor). Now that may seem picky, but horror authors require readers’ suspension of disbelief to be effective, so being credible in other parts of the story is critically important. So she began to lose me almost from the outset. Still, I had hope.
Later, we learn that the “normal” citizens of Claysville get headaches and forgetful when confronted with anything supernatural. Seriously? That’s the way you’re going to handle the fact that someone sees a kid that died last week walking down the street? They just get a headache and forget it? How convenient. Then, when someone manages to man-up and ask a question, you get statements like, “Things are just different here” and “That’s the way things are here.” Oy. Again, I can’t suspend that much disbelief and for a storyteller, that’s just lazy.
Later, we find out that there’s a secret contract between the powers that be in the town and the Bad Guy. Rebekkah’s love interest goes to the Underworld and signs it (for a new generation) in blood without reading it. Without. Reading. It. I’m just going to stop here.
Clearly, by winning the Goodreads Readers Choice Award, there are a lot of people that liked Graveminder. Obviously, I’m not one of them.
One star out of five