Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (Gallery Books, Feb. 12th, 2013)-Jason Getty has a problem. About a year ago he killed a man and buried him in his yard. It’s been eating him up inside ever since, and just when he thinks he can’t possibly stand it anymore, two more bodies are discovered on his property by his lawn service. When they find the first one, of course he assumes it’s the man he killed, but it’s not. It’s the bodies of a man and a woman that were evidently buried there before he bought the house. When Detectives Tim Bayard and Ford Watts come calling, it’s especially obvious to Bayard that Jason is hiding something, but he doesn’t think he had anything to do with these particular murders. In fact, one of the bodies belongs to Reid Reynolds, the fiancé of Leah Tamblin, who’s still reeling from his disappearance. He’s long been assumed dead but the discovery of his body sends her into a near frenzy to find out the truth. Why is he buried on Jason Getty’s property, and who is the woman buried nearby, presumably at the same time as Reid? Her need to find out what happened to Reid is all consuming and she’s determined to discover the truth. Soon, this need, and Jason’s crime will suck them all into a murky vortex of deceit, murder, and misunderstanding, with comic, and tragic, results.

Three Graves Full is Jamie Mason’s first novel, and the bulk of the book is made up of Jason’s story, and how he came to know the man he eventually killed. Jason is a timid and insecure man, trying to survive after his wife’s untimely death. When he commits an act of random kindness one day at the gas pump, he has no idea that he’s just caught the attention of a violent schemer. Jason’s loneliness and desperation are heartbreaking, and as the man known as Gary Harris slowly weasels his slimy way into Jason’s life, the feeling of inevitable disaster builds to excruciating effect. You will no doubt find yourself sympathizing with Jason and eventually, after hiding for so long, he’ll have to make some life and death decisions that will change the course of his life forever.

Leah and Reid’s story is intriguing as well and paints the portrait of childhood sweethearts who spent years in a codependent and undeniably dysfunctional relationship. Reid is a hard man to sympathize with, although it’s his good heart that keeps Leah at his side, but frankly, she’s a doormat throughout the relationship, and her strength has only just begun to shine through since his death. Perhaps for me, the highlight of this novel is Ford Watts, his wife, Maggie, and his amazing unofficial police dog, Tessa. Tessa is a delightful wonder and she chews up every single scene she’s in.

There is a bad guy running around during all this, of course. After all, someone had to kill Reid and the young woman he was buried with. However, to reveal who he is would take quite a bit of fun away from this frankly awesome debut. Mason’s prose is almost like poetry at times, and her dry, observant wit and black humor infuses the pages with that extra something that so many novels lack. Once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down, and some of the scenes made me squirm and laugh at the same time, which is quite a feat. It has a hint of farce about it, but never goes over the line, and although you’ll find yourself wondering how the heck everything and everyone ties together at the beginning, they do, and it’s awesome. I didn’t see the ending coming at all and it was partly this unpredictability that made this book so damn good. For me, this was a nearly flawless debut, and I’ll look forward to anything Jamie Mason has to offer in the future.

-Three Graves Full will be released by Gallery Books on Feb. 12th. Kind thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy.