Now I know I said that I wasn’t going to be reviewing any more self-published titles for a while, but I decided to make an exception for In the Graveyard Antemortem by Stephen Stromp. I had reviewed his earlier novel Cracking Grace a couple of years back, and since I enjoyed it I thought I’d give this one a go too.
And I’m glad I did.
In the Graveyard Antemortem is nothing at all like Cracking Grace, but it is a super-fun mix of murder-mystery, ghost story, creepy family drama and gory hack-fest. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
*Winner of Amazon’s reader-powered Kindle Scout program.*
Seventeen-year-old Lisa Jacobs is determined to solve her father’s gruesome murder. But before she can investigate in her own small town, she is forced to spend the summer with her Uncle Clayton, the owner of Grand Hallow—a massive funeral and mortuary operation the size of a small city.
Her move to Grand Hallow only deepens the mystery as she begins to suspect the strange and chilling occurrences there are linked to her father’s death.
With the help of her acid-tongued best friend and deadbeat brother, Lisa must unravel the secrets of Grand Hallow—before it’s too late.
In the Graveyard Antemortem is a mystery/suspense novel with a healthy dash of horror.
The first thing you need to do before reading this one is suspend your disbelief. This is meant to be entertainment, not a reflection of reality. It took me a few chapters to realise this and early on I was thinking, “But that wouldn’t really happen!” and “Why would she behave like that?” and so on and so forth. After I twigged that this wasn’t meant to be an actual, reality-reflecting murder investigation type book, I suspended said disbelief and things got a whole lot more fun and engaging really fast.
It’s no secret that I love books about cemeteries and morticians and the death industry in general, and this book features an absolute cracker of a cemetery. It’s enormous and labyrinthine and you just know there are at least a few shady goings-on hidden amongst the viewing rooms and mausoleums and morgues. Ned, the assistant manager character who initially brings Lisa to Grand Hallow (in a hearse, obviously), became my favourite by the end, in no small part because he reminded me so much of the “Yes” guy on the Simpsons:
Tina, Lisa’s potty-mouthed friend, also became one of my favourites, simply for the colour and life that she brings to the story, as well as her forthright manner.
The story has a few distinct parts to it – or at least they felt distinct to me as I was reading. The first focuses on the murder of Lisa’s father and the unexpected intervention of her estranged Uncle Clayton. The second part really makes a feature of Grand Hallow and we start to see that all is not as it appears at this vast necropolis. After that there is a section in which Lisa doesn’t know who she can trust – I found this to be quite a suspenseful part of the story with lots of action, although….the next bit blows all that to pieces and turns the story right on its head as some rather unsavoury practices are brought to light and the murder is finally solved. HA! BUT IS IT REALLY SOLVED?! You’ll have to read to the end to tie up all the loose threads – and this final part of the story features most of the gore and horror action in a satisfyingly exuberant fight to the death.
If you are looking for a YA book that contains an absorbing mystery (well, more than one actually), a good dose of atmospheric suspense, some twists that you won’t see coming (and will probably make you go “Ew”, when you get to them), and a solid helping of supernatural tumult, then I would highly recommend giving In the Graveyard Antemortem a crack.
I received a copy from the author for review, but you can pick it up at either of these two Amazon sites:
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HN4DJ9E
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HN4DJ9E
Now don’t take this to mean that I’m reviewing self-published tomes again, because I’m not. This was an enjoyable aberration and my policy still stands for now.
Until next time,