Grave Reservations: A quirky, engaging protagonist anchors this Seattle mystery

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsGrave Reservations by Cherie Priest science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsGrave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Leda Foley is trying to keep her single-person travel agency afloat. Grady Merritt is a Seattle PD detective away at a conference. When Leda changes his return flight plans without notice or explanation, she saves his life — and outs herself as a psychic. Back home in Seattle, Grady hires her to assist on a baffling cold case he won’t let go of. Abruptly, a psychic episode shows Leda that this case and unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod three years earlier are connected.

2021’s Grave Reservations is a slight departure for Cherie Priest; no airships, no horror and hardly any ghosts. It isn’t exactly her first foray into mystery, because I am Princess X has strong mystery elements. Amazon bills Grave Reservations as Book One of THE BOOKING AGENTS series and I really hope that’s true.

Despite Leda’s grief over Tod, still deep after three years, and a rapidly rising body count, the tone of Grave Reservations blends quirky and funny. Leda and her best friend Niki are hilarious whenever they are on the page together, and when you factor in Castaways, the bar where Leda performs “Klairvoyant Karaoke,” the book bubbles over with rounded characters and local color.

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsGrady Merritt is a believable, frustrated cop. He wants to find justice for people, and because of an experience in his own life, he’s open-minded about paranormal phenomena. He’s a widow, and worries about his smart and independent teenaged daughter Molly. A few times, when Niki and Leda take over interviews (after promising him they won’t speak) I had to remind myself that this was a cozy mystery, not a procedural. While those scenes are funny and necessary to the plot, I twitched out of the story whenever I came across one.

I liked that way Leda’s psychic development dovetailed with the revelation of the murderer. In the climactic scene, Priest chose an unconventional way to deal with the inevitable confrontation between the murderer and Leda. I’m still thinking about it, and I’m 95% sure it works.

The book shares characteristics with some of the Juliet Blackwell San Francisco mysteries. It relies heavily — and well — on the setting, which is Seattle and its environs. While the murders are serious, the tone is light, and in Priest’s case there are scenes that qualify as zany (I offer Leda lecturing to her team, complete with a white board and a laser pointer, as Exhibit A). If you’ve liked Priest’s horror stories and ghost stories, or you like cozy mysteries in general, you’ll enjoy Grave Reservations.

Meet Leda Foley: devoted friend, struggling travel agent, and inconsistent psychic. When Leda, sole proprietor of Foley’s Flights of Fancy, impulsively re-books Seattle PD detective Grady Merritt’s flight, her life changes in ways she couldn’t have predicted. After watching his original plane blow up from the safety of the airport, Grady realizes that Leda’s special abilities could help him with a cold case he just can’t crack. Despite her scattershot premonitions, she agrees for a secret reason: her fiancé’s murder remains unsolved. Leda’s psychic abilities couldn’t help the case several years before, but she’s been honing her skills and drawing a crowd at her favorite bar’s open-mic nights, where she performs Klairvoyant Karaoke — singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects. Now joined by a rag-tag group of bar patrons and pals alike, Leda and Grady set out to catch a killer — and learn how the two cases that haunt them have more in common than they ever suspected.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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