Written by: Terri Bailey Blake(Amazon / Goodreads)
Published: August 7, 2018 by Tor Teen (Macmillan)
Synopsis: Early Libba Bray meets Stalking Jack the Ripper and William Ritter’s Jackaby series in this richly atmospheric Gothic tale of murder and romance in 1850s New England
Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother's legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.
Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.
Debut author Terri Bailey Black unearths the long-buried secrets of a small New England town in this richly atmospheric Gothic tale of murder, guilt, redemption, and finding love where least expected..
When I first heard about this book I immediately knew I needed to read it. It's such a me book. A historical mystery set in New England? Yes, please. So I was completely excited when Tor approved my request on Netgalley. And while this was an interesting and atmospheric read perfect for fall, I didn't love it.
One thing that I did like was the setting. I am a complete sucker for books that take place in New England. I live in New England and I love it so much so when I find books that take place here that capture the spirit and atmosphere of New England I am all for it. This book definitely did that. It didn't lean to hard into it either. I'm not sure it had a distinctly New England feel but it had the vibe and felt familiar. It had an atmosphere that I loved. The other great thing about the setting is the small town aspect of the story. Mysteries are perfect in small town settings because everyone knows everyone and is in one another's business which makes suspects out of so many people. And this was definitely an interesting small town where that was the case.
The only thing about the setting that I didn't love was the historical aspect. I was super pumped to read a historical mystery because it is one of my favorite subgenres. However, this book was just a mystery with a historical setting. In my opinion, if you are going to write a historical novel you need to root the story in history. It doesn't have to be about a specific event but it should feel like the time period. This book just felt timeless and that's not really a good thing. Sometimes I would forget it was not set in the modern era and then they would talk about carriages. I don't know if it was a lack or research or just lack of historical grounding. I think the author should have just leaned into the historical setting more than she did.
The plot however was kind of hit or miss for me. I will say, I loved the mystery. It was a really fantastic mystery with lots of things that unfolded throughout the book. This is one of those mysteries where I suspect everyone at one point or another so I am able to figure out who the culprit is but their motives and what actually happened didn't get revealed until the end which I liked. However, there was so much focus on the romance in this book. There's one very small mention about finding love in the synopsis but it was definitely a big part of the plot. Which wouldn't have been that big a deal if I liked the romance, but I didn't. It was a love triangle that annoyed me so much because the character kept changing her mind. But then again, I am hard to please when it comes to romance.
As far as the characters, they were fine but didn't impress me much. Valentine is a fine protagonist and is relatively easy to sympathize with. She's the town outcast and I can feel compassion for her in that respect and I wanted her to solve the mystery but throughout the book she got very frustrating. For one thing she kept thinking she figured everything out and was always wrong. After awhile I stopped trusting her and that is never the good thing in a mystery protagonist. And then there is the romance. Because seriously, both romantic leads were not likable. Maybe I kept them at arms length because I suspected them of being involved in the murder in some way, or maybe they just weren't my find of characters but either way, I was not a fan. But it's kind of the name of the game when it comes to mysteries when you suspect everyone of murder.
All in all this was an okay read, but not the book I was hoping for. It had a good setting and an engaging mystery but there was way too much romance and I didn't connect with the characters. I wanted to love it, but sadly I did not.
I give Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black 7.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read Girl at the Grave? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!