Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review: Grave Passage

Grave Passage, a Henry Grave Mystery by William Doonan. I got this book from a very nice mystery book club member, and I'll take it back to pass it on to someone else next meeting.

Henry Grave is an 84-year-old special investigator - special in that he's had no particular training for investigating crimes, but he still seems to solve them anyway. He has a deep background which is gradually and smoothly revealed during the course of this investigation into the murder of a true crime author strangled and hung up high on a Caribbean-cruise ship climbing wall. The author had been bragging in his well-attended ship lectures about a famous unsolved murder case from six years previously which he had solved and would reveal the killer the next day in his next lecture. Gee, guess what guy, that wasn't a good idea. The investigation, therefore, takes place on the luxury liner as it wends its way amongst the islands. Its oceanic location makes it important to solve the murder before the ship enters any country's jurisdictional waters, thus putting it into the hands of local law enforcement that may or may not be up to the job.

The donor of this book said it's funny and that Henry Grave is a hilarious old guy and he was right. William Doonan, the book's author, is not elderly but he seems to get the balance of making humor from ageing's inconveniences and pains without resorting to stereotypes or insults against old people. Henry tends to fall asleep at the wrong moments, sometimes awakening to be horrified that he'd let himself become so vulnerable to attack (which is a very appropriate fear, here).  He gets busy with investigating and tends to forget to eat, then suddenly has to eat lest his "mild" diabetes bring him down. (This is one point that bothered me - Henry drinks quite a bit and I thought such quantities of alcohol were a real no-no for diabetics. I worry about him.) He's actually very tough and able to be ruthless when circumstances require it - that personal history serves him well in dangerous moments. And he uses the doddering old geezer stereotype quite effectively while actually being ready for pretty much anything. He's not afraid to confront possible murderers, mobsters, and deposed genocidal dictators with blunt questions and a skeptical attitude.

Henry considers himself still very much in the running in the romance department. He is often telling himself the equivalent of "I've still got it!" but on him, it's charming, not chauvinistically dude-bro-ish. The cruise ship atmosphere with many older (not to mention, rich) women available to practice his flirting skills on is right up his alley. And he's proud of his dancing skills - he teaches a class on the tango at one point in the book. He loves food. And he doesn't make "old peoples'" nasty comments about younger generations' music and fashion and manners like so many aggravating older characters in books. (I hate that.) I really like Henry Grave and I hope to read further exploits about him.

The mystery itself turns out to be much more far-ranging and interesting than I'd expected it to be. Henry's able to perceive when modern cyber skills will be useful, though I don't think he's much of a skilled cyber guy himself, beyond using Google and watching videos on his laptop - he knows who can ferret out information for him and doesn't hesitate to draft their assistance.

The description of life on board a luxury cruise liner was interesting - Doonan has been guest lecturer on quite a few cruises himself, the Author's Bio says - but it still wouldn't appeal to me. I'm quite happy to read about it. Not interested in doing it.

All in all this is a very enjoyable book and I hope to read more of Henry's adventures!

Book info:

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: The Glencannon Press (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1889901490
ISBN-13: 978-1889901497 offers this for free for Kindle if you're a KindleUnlimited subscriber, otherwise it's $2.99. The paperback version is listed at $22.95 new. There are several other Henry Grave novels listed there, too.

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