Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: Judgment of the Grave by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Sweeney St. George #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting plot, fully developed characters
Cons: Tim Quinn gets too much page time.
The Bottom Line:
I still don't like Tim
But the rest of it is great
So enjoyable

A Judgement in Favor of the Reader

Amateur detectives come in many shapes and sizes, but none is as unique as Sweeney St. George. She is an art history professor who specializes in tombstones and mourning jewelry. This fascinating specialty not only gets involved in mysteries of the past, but also brings her into contact with very real modern dead bodies.

Judgment of the Grave, the third book in this series, finds Sweeney in Concord doing research for an article. While there, she meets twelve-year-old Pres Whiting. When Pres learns of Sweeney's interests, he tells her about his ancestor Josiah Whiting who carved gravestones before he disappeared during the start of the American Revolution. The unusual death's heads he carved on his tombstones intrigues Sweeney, so she decides to do further research on him.

Meanwhile, on their way home from the graveyard, Pres and Sweeney find the body of a man dressed in a costume from one of the many reenactments that take place nearby.

Meanwhile, Detective Tim Quinn is working on his own missing person case. A history professor researching Josiah Whiting in between reenactments in Concord has vanished. Why did his wife take so long to report him missing? Is he the body Sweeney has discovered? And what is the explosive revelation he had in his book about Josiah?

Once again, Sarah Stewart Taylor has written a great book. She expertly weaves mysteries of the past and present together. I especially enjoyed the historical setting of the Revolutionary War since it's one of my favorite times of American history. There are some very cool twists in the plot; the fact that I spotted a couple before Sweeney didn't dampen my enjoyment of them at all.

The writing style continues to pull you in the story. It's easy to read yet projects the darker edge to this cozy series. The events and characters have a decidedly dark edge to them as well, as you would expect from a series dealing with funeral art.

The series has created some great characters, and this book is no exception. Sweeney is engaging and instantly likable. The author obviously spends some time getting to know her new characters become they jump off the page fully developed.

This book has a serious flaw, however. Tim Quinn has been elevated to co-star status, but that doesn't seem to be enough for him. He seems to be trying to take over the book. I didn't actually count, but it felt like he had more page time then Sweeney did, and his sub-plot about finding day care for his infant daughter, Megan, slowed down the first third of the story. He also felt like he got more character development this time around. This is all compounded by the fact that I don't like him nearly as much as Sweeney or even her friend Toby, who only got a cameo roll in this book.

Overall, Judgment of the Grave is another great book in a fascinating series. I'm certainly looking forward to Sweeney's next case.

And you'll want to read the Sweeney St. George Mysteries in order.

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