The Gravedigger's Ball
A Mike Colletti Mystery by Solomon Jones
Review: Philadelphia police detective Mike Colletti is assigned to the case of a woman found murdered at the bottom of a freshly dug grave, made more personal when a fellow officer is later found dead at the bottom of another grave, in The Gravedigger's Ball, the second mystery in this series by Solomon Jones.
The title refers to an annual charity event to raise funds to maintain the historic Fairgrounds Cemetery. The chairwoman for this year's event is Lenore Wilkinson, the wife of a wealthy Manhattan real estate developer. Lenore also happens to be the half-sister of the Angel of Death, a serial killer from the previous book in the series, and a friend of the murdered woman. Colletti believes that Lenore may also be a target of the killer, who was seen by a reporter trying to get a scoop on the news: a man with a chalk-white face, crooked, brittle mustache, and coal-black eyes. Eerily, a large black bird, a raven, was also seen at the scene of both crimes and heard flying away by the reporter. Colletti's suspicions are confirmed when the coroner reports that a piece of paper was found in the dead woman's mouth. "I'll be back for Lenore."
There are two points that need to be mentioned up front. First, the story here picks up immediately after the events of the previous book, and in many ways seems to be simply a continuation of it. While it is not strictly necessary to have read the previous book to readily pick up the story here, it would probably help, especially in terms of understanding the character of Mike Colletti. Second, while this book may start off as a typical, whodunit-style police procedural, there are a number of paranormal features introduced, not the least of which is the presence of an apparently sentient raven.
Setting this paranormal aspect aside, the plot itself includes a number of intriguing elements. "Lenore" is the name of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe — who spent some time in Philadelphia — and is also a central character in his narrative poem "The Raven". It's no coincidence that someone bearing a superficial resemblance to Poe is seeking someone named Lenore. Secret manuscripts and mysterious maps are also introduced during Colletti's investigation. But while the storyline is fast-paced, it's also uneven, in part because Colletti and company are treating the case as a "normal" murder investigation while the reader knows it is anything but "normal". The book concludes on a somewhat strange note as well, with an "Indiana Jones"-style (-inspired?) climax that is completely inconsistent with what preceded it.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of The Gravedigger's Ball for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Dead Man's Wife
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), October 2012
ISBN-13: 9781250006448; ISBN-10: 2500064489
Location(s) referenced in The Gravedigger's Ball: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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The Gravedigger's Ball by Solomon Jones — A Mike Colletti Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: October 2011
List Price: $24.99