Three Graves Full – Jamie Mason

smallerversionThere is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard. The truth of this novel’s opening sentence is not lost on Jason Getty, a pale, meek, and quiet man who hides a damning secret at the far corner of his lawn: the body of the man he killed more than a year ago. Plagued by recurring nightmares, Jason constantly wonders when his number will be up…until landscapers find a body in the yard that Jason didn’t bury.

Then the police find another one—another body that Jason also didn’t bury.

As Jason struggles to stay a step ahead of the police, knowing that they could find the corpse of the one man he truly hated any day, his sanity begins to crumble…

I didn’t expect to love this novel by debut author Jamie Mason, and I was right: I didn’t love it. BUT it far exceeded my expectations.

I will tell you right off the bat that my only real complaint with this book is the terrible title. Yeah, it’s darkly funny in a way, but…meh. Not crazy about the title. And then my only semi-real complaint was the length/pacing of the book: It seemed like it went by too quickly. I mean that mostly in a good way, but when I looked down at the slide bar at the bottom of my Kindle app and it said I was 88% done, my first thought was “But I haven’t been reading this that long at all!” Luckily, there was ample time to wrap everything up that needed wrapping, and while the ending wasn’t completely satisfying, it at least didn’t leave me hanging. (I hate those.)

On to the good things. The plot was kind of hilarious in a really dark way. I mean, come on. You killed a guy, buried his body in your YARD, and then two other bodies get discovered there? I don’t blame Jason for losing it a bit. (Although my big question was why didn’t he just leave? He wasn’t exactly attached to his house or his job or his town. I would have just high-tailed it out of there. Then again, if he had done that, there wouldn’t be a novel to write.)

There’s also just something really refreshing about the way Mason writes. It’s plain, easy to read, and unassuming (none of which are bad things), but sometimes she comes out with little gems like this and I can’t help but smile as I highlight them: She’d extracted details from him in the same way you compulsively bend a hangnail and marvel at the odd satisfaction of the pain.

There’s no doubt that she’s a good writer, and I anticipate seeing more good things coming from her as she grows into a more solid style.

The characters were realistic, if a little one-dimensional. Seeing as there were only a few characters, I would have hoped that they’d be fleshed out a bit more, but I can see how a short book that is mostly action can make character development hard to squeeze in. Not that she didn’t try, but when she did, it came out sounding tangential and/or like an excuse for why a character could or couldn’t do something rather than something really related to the actual development of the character. For example, towards the end, two characters have to head into the woods, and one refuses because of something that happened in her childhood. But then she goes anyway and faces only minor panic. So what was made a big deal of turned out to not be, and I don’t think the book would have lost anything by excluding that part. That’s not to say all of the characters were underdeveloped—we got a pretty good look into Jason’s motivations and quirks and all—but the large majority of the small cast were drawn pretty flat.

I liked it. I can’t say I would have necessarily gone out of my way to buy it, but since I got it on NetGalley, I didn’t have to. I’d say borrow this from a library, or at least sneak a read of the first few chapters in the bookstore before you commit.

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