reviewed by Fiona Cook
When Leda Foley—travel agent and self-described inconsequential psychic—rebooks her client’s flight because of a bad feeling, he’s shocked, right up until the plane he should have been aboard catches fire. When he shows up at her agency with a cold case he just can’t solve, Leda sees a chance to find the answers she’s been searching for too.
Grave Reservations was possibly one of my favorite books of the year. Cherie Priest’s work has previously tended much more towards the serious; the comedic notes she hits here are all the more delightful for being a surprise. Leda and her best friend, Niki, play beautifully off straight-man Detective Grady Merritt as they investigate, and they do so against a beautifully woven background of characters and places.
There’s more than just a murder mystery at play here, and around the central thread of the story flourishes a much larger overall cast of Leda’s friends and colleagues. Her side-hustle as the psychic psongstress (name still subject to debate) is a stroke of genius, and the team at the Castaways bar make up a support network that functions more as an extended family. Even those we don’t spend much time with are endearing and refreshingly individual, without ever feeling quirky for the sake of quirk. Seattle itself makes for a fantastic setting, her coffee shops and eleven-story glass libraries providing the kind of backdrop that such a diverse range of characters deserves.
Levity and karaoke might sound like odd matches for a murder investigation, but it works – the more somber moments are kept buoyant by the levity, even as they lend depth and dimension to both the story and the characters. The stakes feel real; but it doesn’t keep the book from being a very real antidote to dealing with the real world. Grave Reservations is still an escape for the reader, but one that doesn’t attempt to gloss over the realities of life; one that will call them out and offer you something better for a while.
Grave Reservations is full of the little touches that take a book from good to great. Readers are in for an absolute treat, with a mystery as endearing as it is intriguing.
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