“Grave Reservations” by Cherie Priest is a perfectly charming paranormal mystery that features a slightly flaky but very personable main character. There’s nothing that says self-deprecating like a travel agent who calls herself “ninety-nine percent worthless as a psychic.” Leda Foley runs Foley’s Far-Fetched Flights of Fancy, a travel agency. In the first chapter, she changes a client’s connecting flight without letting him know in advance. When he calls her as he’s rushing to get to the original gate, she tells him that if he wants to get home that evening, he must take the rebooked flight. Priest explains that Leda “didn’t know why she’d changed his flight. It’d been a feeling, hard as a fist in her stomach.” After being sorry in the past when she ignored those feelings, she doesn’t ignore them now. And when his original flight explodes, he’s thankful for Leda’s feelings.
In fact, Detective Grady Merritt of the Seattle Police Department decides that Leda’s psychic abilities might be just what he needs to get a break on an old case that has him stumped. A father and son were murdered at a hotel months previously, and the police have no leads to finding the murderer. Merritt approaches Leda to see if she will work with him “off the books.” He doesn’t tell anyone that she is “consulting” with him, and during his free time, he takes her to reinterview those involved.
For her part, Leda isn’t very busy at her travel agency and in fact isn’t sure how much longer she will be able to keep it together. She spends some of her free time doing what her best friend, Niki, calls klairvoyant karaoke, having customers at Niki’s boyfriend’s bar give her an item that has meaning to them, Leda picks out a song that she feels connects to that item, and she sings the song. After some convincing, Leda agrees to help Grady, and Niki insists on being part of the group.
What Leda doesn’t tell Grady is that she has her own reasons for wanting to help him. Her fiancee, Tod, been killed three years earlier in what appeared to be a random shooting. Another woman, shot with the same gun, was found nearby. Tod’s murderer was never found, and Leda has not gotten over his death. She feels that there needs to be justice for whoever killed him, and she’s hoping that if she helps Grady on his case, he might work on Tod’s murder. As it turns out, the two might just be connected.
Solving a murder is a slow process, and during the process of interviewing the original people involved, some of them start dying. Or being attacked. And it’s obviously related to the original murders. Leda is frustrated at her inability to just find the killer. And Priest’s writing is truly lovely as Leda shares her feelings of inadequacy, “Truly, she was the most inconsequential of psychics. A Cassandra doomed to know gnarly details about the truth—but only if they’re no good to anybody, anywhere, at all. Ever.” You’ll keep reading late into the night for two reasons. You must find out which of the quirky characters is the murderer, but also, you’ll want to keep reading about Grady and his sassy daughter and about Leda and her best friend and sidekick Niki. The combination makes the whole experience just too much fun to stop. You want to keep reading Priest’s marvelous metaphors and delightful dialogue to the last drop, or rather to the last page.
At the end, there are hints that there might be more of the Leda Foley – Grady Merritt murder mysteries, and the author says at least one more book is planned. Once you’ve devoured this one, you’ll be on the wait list for the next. No psychic abilities needed.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.