GRAVE SECRETS by Alice James. Review.

GRAVE SECRETS by Alice James.

Rebellion. p/b. £7.91.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Lavington Windsor, or Toni as she prefers, is an estate agent moonlighting as a necromancer. Or is that the other way around? Either way, she has summoned all of the occupants in the graveyard except one. Roused some 200 years or more after his death, Bredon Havers turns out to be far from the mindless, hungry zombies she usually ends up with. He is intelligent and mannered and provides by far the loveliest conversation she has had in a while. It is a pity he won’t remember her after tonight. Or will he?

A phonecall from her brother leads to a dead teenager who needs her attention. At least a quickly revived corpse is able to name their killer and provide a motive with little effort on Toni’s talented part. Enough for her policeman brother to secure justice for the dead, anyway. However, there is still one dead body that Toni has been unable to raise, leaving open the mystery of who gave Jane Doe such a violent end.

There is plenty else to keep Toni busy though, what with Staffordshire’s recent rise in missing persons not to mention the vampire farmer and his more than appealing friend. Between property hunting for her dashing new client and avoiding death as she finds herself a sudden target of unknown foes, Miss Windsor is about to have a very unusual week. That is even more unusual than a necromancer estate agent’s usual week.

Toni is a truly heart-warming heroine. She is as tough as old boots yet charmingly sentimental and moral with it. This perhaps is mainly a story about love and the sacrifices one might make to find it, and through her encounters with a vampire coven and the perfect-imperfect relationship she ends up in, Toni gets comfortingly close enough to it in this first book to justify the crazy scrapes she ends up in along the way.

Grave Secrets is an absolute gem of a novel. Every page contains a new level of baffling circumstances for Toni to find herself in or scrabble her way out of. There is action aplenty and the common zombie rendition – a drooling, shuffling, dull-witted chase and escape type story – is a long way off. Instead, the zombies catch a break in Bredon Havers and the chief vampire of the story is equally page-worthy and enticing. That this is only the first volume of The Lavington Windsor Mysteries is joy to this reader’s ears.