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Graveyard Queen #1
Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
Publisher: Harlequin Books S.A.⎮2012
Synopsis: Never acknowledge the dead.
Never stray far from hallowed ground.
Never get close to the haunted.
Never, ever tempt fate.
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to these rules passed down from my father…until now.
Detective John Devlin needs my help to find a killer, but he is haunted by ghosts who shadow his every move. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the headstone symbols lead me closer to truth and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.
4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮I’m so glad I decided to save The Restorer until October. I began it a couple of months ago when I was on a Southern Gothic kick, but quickly decided to save this spooky story for closer to Halloween. My curiosity about the story’s premise wouldn’t let me save it for too long though, so it was my first listen of the month.
Fun fact about me: I love cemeteries. Not in a perverse or occultist way, though. I just find them peaceful and kind of comforting. As an amateur genealogist, I have frequented my share of cemeteries and graveyards. Some old, some new. Some well-maintained, and others, not so much. Because of that, I was able to relate to Amelia in a way most other readers or listeners of the series probably can’t.
Story-wise, it reminded me more than a little of Karen White’s Tradd Street series. Both series are set in Charleston and feature female protagonists capable of seeing and communicating with those passed on. But in a face off, The Restorer gets my vote because I found Amelia Gray to be a much more interesting character than Melanie Middleton, primarily because Melanie is a realtor and Amelia is a cemetery restorer.
My interest in Amelia and this series has a lot to do with her occupation. Amelia is known as the “Graveyard Queen” for her adept skill with restoring old cemeteries. I’ve never thought of cemetery restorer as a job position, let alone my dream job, until The Restorer.
The Restorer was not only thrilling, but also informative. I was absolutely fascinated by the tidbits of history and cemetery lore Stevens slipped into the story. I found myself making mental notes of things to do and not to do in cemeteries, based on Amelia’s comments. For example, instead of doing gravestone rubbings, I plan on taking a full length mirror on my next visit to try Amelia’s trick for deciphering epitaphs.
The mystery was well laid out, with plenty of false leads to keep me on the edge of my seat. Stevens could have taken it in several different directions, but I’m satisfied with the ultimate way it played out. One mystery was solved, but several others are still in play. There’s plenty left for Amanda Stevens to work with and this series has some serious potential. I’m already saving up my credits for the next five installments.
Narration review: The second reason I’m giving The Restorer a leg up over the Tradd Street series is the narration. I’ve been a fan of Khristine Hvam for some time now and when I saw she was narrating this series, it went from a “maybe” straight into my basket. That’s the power of a great narrator.
I’m pretty particular over narrators doing Southern accents. In this area, I am admittedly hard to please, so I do take that into consideration when reviewing. I’ve never heard Hvam do a Southern accent before this audiobook and I have to say I prefer her other performances. Her accents for the main character and a couple of other characters struck me as a little to “put on” for my taste, but not over the top. Everything else about her performance was spot-on, especially her character distinctions and other dialect interpretations. I can’t wait to hear her and the rest of the series! ♣︎