"If this person thought they were doing the right thing, then this is somebody with some serious psychological issues. ...People around here probably think whoever did this deserves a medal, but the truth is they're a monster who needs to be locked away forever."
Open this book if you dare. You're in for a harrowing, relentless thrill-ride. From page one, His Favourite Graves grabs the reader by the throat and won't let go.
Paul Cleave sets the tension and pace in his fourteenth book; one of only two books (so far) set in the small U.S. town of Acacia Pines. The first was Whatever It Takes, featuring disgraced deputy Noah Harper.
From the opening scene of incarceration, abduction, and incarceration, in that order, character Lucas is moved quickly from frying pan to fire, from being bullied to a victim of abduction.
The bad guy? A janitor - the kind of perp who is almost invisible; an ignored underdog, pilloried or teased, if noticed at all. Sadly, someone so abused, his sense of reality is warped. Someone with access to all areas, unnoticed, but noticing everything. This one is working in a school. Quelle horreur.
Many of the pivotal characters in His Favourite Graves are flawed - the adults have broken marriages, financial and drinking problems, while the kids are unmanageable: into bullying, gaming and worse.
I found the janitor's situation really sad, but also horrific. Cleave confounds the reader's suspicion and messes with your sympathies, making it impossible to draw conclusions.
Does this treatment make Sherriff Cohen's actions easier to understand? Sure, he solves the crime, but his methods are questionable. Is he Just another rule-breaking cowboy?
Under pressure, Cohen's racing against time to find the missing boy while buzzards circle his personal life. The bank is about to foreclose, he's being sued by his father's care home, his wife's moved out and his son is the road to becoming a sociopath. This is just the tip of the iceberg in this well-plotted, visceral thriller.
Where Paul finds the time to write increasingly clever and complex thrillers, while working on a television adaptation of his first book, The Cleaner, (also about a janitor, set in Christchurch) is beyond me.
Cleave's work is proof of the success of Kiwi writers. We're proud to call him our own. There are rumours of a February 2024 release date for the series, called Dark City - The Cleaner. Can't wait!