Play Dead, by Anne Frasier
(It feels like a disproportionately large number of the titles I read lately contain the words "dead" or "death". This is what comes of reading mysteries, horror/thrillers, and the Sookie Stackhouse series...)
I'm going to pick this one apart and list the things I didn't like (which seems to be my usual method on this blog), but honestly, despite imperfections, I found the novel enjoyable enough-- especially considering it was free on Amazon. (It's not free at the moment. Check every week or so, because the list of freebies changes frequently.)
(with slight spoilers)
• The cursing. It certainly wasn't the worst I've read for cursing, but... I'm probably in the minority, but I don't feel it adds much to a book. Possibly there are occasions where it's useful, but most of the time, it's more of a distraction than anything else. (Incidentally, the cursing reminded me that, though I wasn't crazy about The Girl in the Green Raincoat over all, at least I don't remember it having much/any foul language.) Anyway, regarding what I deem to be "unnecessary" cursing-- it's not a total deal-breaker, but it is something I take unfavorable note of. There were times when it was probably merited here, for the characters and the situations, but I still would've toned it down a shade or two.
• The Yankee vs. Southerner angle. Meh. A little mention of it is ok, but... it's not the most comfortable subject to read about, as a Southerner. This bothers me mainly because there's plenty of prejudice against Southerners-- and negative stereotypes of Southerners-- so to get only the "backward Southerners are stuck in the past and hate this poor, innocent Northerner just because he's from... Ohio" point of view is somewhat irksome. I'm very thankful that at least not every character was painted as being "anti-Yankee". Since it was mostly limited to two marginal characters, this is a very small nit-pick. (Still, Ohio? I tend not to think of Ohio as "Yankeeland"...)
• The love spell? (The "mojo" or whatever it is that Flora uses?) Yuck. Possibly the grossest, creepiest thing in the whole book.
• David's "interactions" with Flora... :o/ I really wish the dude had had more self-respect than to call a prostitute then keep up a kinda-sorta relationship with her just because she was convenient. Related: "Or were they just two smart but extremely messed-up people clinging to each other for comfort? Yep." Um... smart? Ok, whatever you say, brainiac.
• Elise's relationship with her daughter is frustrating. The bratty teenager who wants nothing to do with her mother. The weak parent, afraid to assert herself. It's not a pleasant dynamic-- but fortunately things have begun to improve between them by the end of the novel.
• "Finding my way around in the tunnels was a little like playing Monopoly, only with bigger pieces." ...Huh? But isn't Monopoly just going around and around the square game-board? Nothing at all maze-like, so far as I can recall...
• I could've done without the mortuary insight. (This is from notes I wrote while reading, and I have already forgotten what the "mortuary insights" were-- some details of what they do to prepare bodies for burial, I think. This is one of those times I am thankful for my sieve-like memory. (g))
• If I'm going to read about "witchcraft", I prefer the fantastical kind-- Harry Potter style-- to this "realistic" kind. I would've liked Elise even better (though I do like her as she is) if she didn't believe in any of it... or decided once and for all that it wasn't going to be part of her life, going forward... but it was such a big part of the character, I knew we wouldn't see her turn away from it. *shrug*
(just observations / reactions)
• "Root doctor". Apparently it's the pc/preferred alternative to "witch doctor". First I've heard of it, but then again, I don't really move in the root-doctor/witch-doctor circle... ;o)
"...the doors and window trim painted blue to repel evil spirits."
Hm. Interesting, considering that I think I know of one or two local
homes with blue-painted trim. (Or at least they did in the past... Not sure if they still do.) I always thought those people just had
(really) bad taste in house paint, but now I wonder if there was more to
it than that... (Kind of creepy to think that people actually believe
this stuff... Makes the whole novel creepier.)
We hear a lot about how this story is set in Savannah, Georgia-- reminiscent of
the frequent mention of BALTIMORE BALTIMORE BALTIMORE in The Girl in the Green Raincoat-- but this book does a much better job of giving you the feel of the place-- or this author's version of Savannah, at least.
• That said... this book makes Savannah seem pretty weird-- like another New Orleans. I wonder what people who live in Savannah would think of Frasier's presentation of their city. I've come across a series of murder mysteries set in Mobile. Now I'm curious to read one just to see how that author paints the (semi)local color... (I suspect I wouldn't like all of it. But then when do I ever like all of a book? (g))
• I'm surprised by the number of people who seem to find this book scary/creepy. There were a few eerie moments, but I didn't find any of it that creepy. There wasn't even that much suspense...
• BIG SPOILER...
I figured out the killer's identity a little before it was revealed, but not so early that the book was dull. It was always clear that it wasn't going to be... let's say "the Prime Suspect"-- and then when the killer is thinking about how s/he went into the tunnels from his/her house (or something like that), the killer's identity becomes obvious. However, I'm a little confused about how this woman could so easily haul around male bodies for miles... I guess none of the ones she intentionally killed and then moved around were described as being large men. Most (all?) were young, in fact, and possibly slight-figured. Plus she was using the tunnels, so she could wheel them around most of the way... I guess it's plausible.
END BIG SPOILER...
Verdict: It's not Book of the Year quality, but still definitely readable. I liked the main characters (Elise and David) and was happy to see some of the relationships work out as I'd hoped. Some aspects of the story were predictable, but not so much so that I didn't enjoy reading to see how they would resolve themselves. I'll be happy to try another book by this author.