Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Lost Graves by S.A. Dunphy

First Sentence: A small boy stood in the clearing amid the oak and hazel trees and stared at the macabre object his dog had just excavated from the soil of the forest floor, gripping the animal's collar to restrain it from tearing the severed human hand apart.

Joe Keenan and his young son Finbar are Travellers who've made camp for the night when Finbar comes across a corpse. Joe is arrested, but members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Jesse Boyle, criminal behaviorist, DS Seamus Keneally, and historian and computer genius Terri Kehoe, don't believe Joe is guilty. Joe Keenan is and is hesitant about helping the investigation as he is on the run from a group of Travellers threatening to kill him. More bodies are found, some dating back 20 years. Locals blame the deaths on a vampire, the Abhartach. 

What an excellent opening. One is drawn immediately into the story and the characters. Even the chapter headings are evocative.

Jessie Boyle, Seamus Keneally, and Terri Kehoe make a great team. Jessie's observations and analysis are interesting to follow, Seamus' ability to eat constantly without ever getting a drop on himself and Terri's computer expertise bring the characters to life. One has become accustomed to investigative teams being able to find whatever information they want via computer. It is a nice change to have someone acknowledge GIGO—Garbage In, Garbage Out—the unreliability of data.

In this second book of the series, once again the author falls victim to over-plotting. While the folklore is interesting, it somewhat overwhelms the story, as does the serial-killer trope. There is an attempt to introduce a sense of the paranormal with the idea of the Abhartach, a vampire-like creature, but one never quite buys into it, and links to the seemingly omniscient character of Uruz from the previous book "Bring Her Home" leaves one wondering as to the point.

Dunphy excels at suspense. He creates a true spine-chilling creepiness that makes one catch their breath. Although he is guilty of overkill, he maintains a degree of logic in the plot. What was effective was the inclusion of case notes of a former detective. This added veracity to the story, as did information on the psychology of the Travelling people. They are a group on which there is rarely a focus. The epilogue is nicely done, while a major weakness is the use of completely unnecessary portents.

LOST GRAVES is a good, fast read. The thing that really holds it together is the principal characters. Dunphy falls into the category of a guilty pleasure read, and that's not a bad thing. While this second book is a step forward, a much stronger editor is to be desired. Even so, the books are ripping reads and the next is already in the queue.

LOST GRAVES (PolProc- Boyle/Keneally/Kehoe-Ireland-Contemp) – G+
Dunphy, S.A. – 2nd in series
Bookouture, Jan 2022, 356 pp.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm.... I'm not much of a one for the serial-killer trope, either. And I know just what you mean about the plot being overtaken by detail. That said, though, I do like the idea of Travellers as main characters. And the beginning does sound absorbing!