Hart, Ellen. The Grave Soul. Minotaur Books, 2015. $19.25. 320p. HC. ISBN 9781250047706.
Even after writing more than 20 successful Jane Lawless mysteries since 1989, Ellen Hart will obviously not be tempted to start “phoning it in” any time soon. The Grave Soul displays this popular author at her best.
Her lesbian sleuth team continues to be Jane, a Minneapolis restauranteur/newly-licensed private investigator and her (literally) larger-than-life BFF, Cordelia Thorn, flamboyant theatre director/owner extraordinaire. This time around, they become embroiled in the romantic travails of ex-employee Guthrie, whose would-be fiancée Kira is deeply enmeshed with her large extended family. When Kira was a child, her mother died from an accidental fall, but suspicions have arisen—-could it have been murder instead? Jane finds her own life in danger when the young man in love enlists her help in learning the truth.
All of Hart’s writing strengths are on view here, especially her full-bodied character development on behalf of nearly every person involved in the action, however tangentially. (These efforts are always bolstered by her helpful “Cast of Characters” lists at the beginning of every book.)
Rather than focusing only on Jane and Cordelia (although their spirited interplay is always a highlight), Hart allows readers a detailed view of the entire literal and figurative landscape at hand. While the final explanatory plot twist in this particular book strains credulity just a tad, it doesn’t detract from the high-quality richness of what precedes it.
LGBT content is minimal in The Grave Soul, but this novel is nevertheless recommended for any reader who appreciates fine writing and keen world building, no matter the literary genre. It is especially well suited to LGBT fiction/mystery collections.
Dallas (TX) Public Library