Grave Expectations
December 28, 2023 4:40 AM - Subscribe

"When 30-something freelance medium Claire Hendricks is invited to an old university friend's country pile to provide entertainment for a family party, her best friend Sophie tags along. In fact, Sophie rarely leaves Claire's side, because she's been haunting her ever since she was murdered at the age of seventeen. ... Teaming up with the least unbearable members of the Wellington-Forge family - depressive ex-cop Basher and teenage radical Alex - Claire and Sophie determine to figure out not just whodunnit, but who they killed, why and when."

Modern and millennial semi-cosy mystery, the first book by Alice Bell, who works on the gaming website Rock Paper Shotgun.

About Bell. She was on the Radio 2 Book Club talking about Grave Expectations. Another interview, at Confessions of a Debut Novelist, has a reading from the book at the start. There is a Q&A with Bell at Books By Your Bedside, and an interview at Fresh Fiction.

A reviews from The Cozy Owlet: "It starts with a classic mystery formula, and envelops that with a paranormal framing device that actually add to the story. And then at the heart of that mystery is a great cast with chemistry and real emotional tension. ... for me, it’s this well-realized, risky exploration of friendship and isolation that takes this story over the top".

The book at Goodreads.

Difficult one to describe because it's all about the voice, but I enjoyed it.
posted by paduasoy (3 comments total)
This is on my to-read list!
posted by maryellenreads at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

I liked it even though parts were (to me) a bit rocky. I like friendship books and this is that. Also, there is a sprinkling of ridiculous meme culture that is like catnip to me. Late in the book there is an oblique reference to the can cats have a little salami meme, which was both hilarious and only popular for the blink of an eye.

Apparently the second book in the series is coming out in April, which is cool, but I'm on team friendship and I worry that the series will end with Claire letting Sophie go, which I know would be the right thing to do but also something that I'm not really emotionally willing to deal with.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:39 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]

What made this one really work for me was the way the book is aware that Claire's situation is shitty, that she's isolated and in a rut, and the real undercurrent of sadness about that. Like, the voice is fun, there's plenty to laugh about, but you also never forget that Claire's stuck in a kind of arrested development, held back by Sophie's ghost, and that Sophie's life was tragically cut short. This would have been a perfectly decent book without that emotional realism, but its inclusion is what's going to make me read the next book in the series.
posted by yasaman at 2:30 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

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