Three Graves Full
Review by Jarad Johnson
I have heard some people say from time to time that the opening line of a novel will either make or break it, so to speak. While I have found that this is not always the case, it certainly was for Three Graves Full. The opening line consisted of, “There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard,” which nicely sets up the novel for the reader. Not only is darkly humorous, but it lets you know the tone of the prose. It sums up the s novel’s best traits, a healthy dose of gallows humor mixed with an interesting plot, overlaid with a tense and rapid-paced writing style that kept me reading. In short, I greatly enjoyed it.
While I always enjoy well-written gallows humor, it is worth noting that the plot of the novel was as equally well written. It starts off with Jason Getty, a seemingly mild-mannered man who has murdered his supposed friend and buried him in the backyard. Since he can’t bring himself to tend the yard himself, he enlists a local landscaping company to do it for him. But surprisingly, they find two other bodies planted in the front garden. What follows is Jason’s attempts to keep himself out of prison, and all of the twists and turns that entail. This is a plot that I could probably write about for the next five pages, but in the interest of not spoiling it, I reluctantly won’t.
What really surprised me about the book was its lack of predictability. One reason that I don’t read many crime novels is that, after a while they all start to have the same plot. Of course, there are some wonderful exceptions, such as this one, but in general I find that they can be few and far between. But this is so full of twists and turns that it leaves the reader constantly guessing. Furthermore, I have often found examples in the crime genre consist of “lazy writing,” where the prose is so watered down and juvenile that it completely takes you out of the story. This is not the case here. The author writes with authority and intelligence that I found to be refreshing. It was very well done.
Also, I think it’s worth noting that the book is never cut and dry. There are few definitive good or bad guys, but differing shades of gray. This, to me, mimics real life more closely. I appreciate that, because it annoys me when books presume that morality and the kind of complex issues that the book deals with are simple.
However, as I was reading I did notice a few minor issues that I would like to touch on. Throughout the book, there are many plots and subplots that are explored in great detail. However, while I recognize that they are all essential to the storyline, it think that they could have been lengthened a little to avoid the feeling of over-crowdedness. There is a lot going on here, and while I didn’t mind it, I think that if some of the storylines were explored in greater depth, it would have been slightly more cohesive.
Likewise, I would have liked to have seen more into the mind of the main character. There are many points throughout where I think it would have been beneficial for the author to have given us more of Jason’s perspective, of his unravelling. I think it would have been interesting to see him devolve a little more.
Overall, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Its plots twists constantly had me guessing and engaged. I appreciate the fact that the author chose to more accurately represent real life, in all of its messiness. It was very believable. I look forward to reading more from this author, not only because she’s very good but because this novel challenged my assumptions about the genre.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!