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review 2015-10-31 06:59
"She talks to dead people. Then she solves their murders."
Of Grave Concern:: An Ophelia Wylde Paranormal Mystery - Max McCoy

I liked the first several paragraphs.  


Then I didn't like it. for several chapters.  The main character seemed rude and unpleasant.  I took a break until I had more patience; and then I found out that there are underlying factors for her manners.  She has reasons to be tense and irritable.


pretty soon, I found myself quite liking Ophelia, a woman on the run and stuck in Dodge City on her way to points west.  My favorite character is Eddie, the Raven, who quotes Poe at every opportunity, and earns the Corvid Good Citizens Award when he saves Ophelia from a fate worse than death.



so, this is why I didn't quite like Ophelia at first.  She is disdainful of the place and the people, and doesn't bother to hide it.  In responding to a comment made by a fellow traveller, she says, "Why, bless your rustic soul."  That just seems uncalled for.


she climbs the hill to the cemetery and these are her thoughts as she looks down on the town:


"From up on Boot Hill, it was easy to imagine the cowboys and the soldiers and the townspeople as animals. The good citizens and the soldiers were mostly herd animals, I decided, but the cowboys ran in packs, like wolves. The most unpredictable and therefore most dangerous of the cowboy animals were the loners— the lobos."

[I don't even know how to process that.]


but after that, I guess she got her feet back under her, and her sense of humor began to shine through.  After over-indulging in the local beverage, she paid a visit to the doctor, who offered this advice:  


" . . . the old- timers say the best cure for the common hangover is to brew up some tea using rabbit pellets,” Doc McCarty said, lifting his glasses so he could read the label on a small tin he had taken from the shelf. “You could try some rabbit-drop tea, if you like.”

“The thought makes me want to hurt you.”


 After she makes a comment about the primitive structures prevalent in the city --


You have the best rooms in the city.”

“That is sad,” I said. “The wind blows the dust through the walls.”


And the conversation that takes place at the attorney's --


There wasn’t room to sit, because every flat surface was piled with something— legal documents, law books, dirty plates. Even the chairs had bundles of the Times and other newspapers on them.

“How do you live like this?”

“Sorry, I didn’t know I was going to have guests.”

“Where are your books?”

“The law books are in the corner.”

“No, I mean literature.”

“I read newspapers.”

“But not Twain or Dickens.”

“I only read factual material.”

“There’s more fiction in just one edition of the Kansas City Times than in all of Thackeray,” I said, aiming at sounding droll but grazing boorish, instead.


Ophelia Wylde is a spiritualist with her own set of ethics.  She helps people, but she doesn't have a problem cheating those whose own morals are in question.  She seems to think it's karma.  

I like the next three conversations because it shows that, while she may have a problem with religion, she still has a heightened sense of spirituality. --


" . . . it’s curious that a woman who professes to demonstrate spirit communication seems skeptical of religious faith. Don’t you believe, Miss Wylde?”

“I believed in a lot of things, Doc,” I said, “when I was a child. But now, I have given up childish things.”

“That’s good,” he said. “Using the Bible to support your disbelief. Clever."


And here, one of her clients has found a reason to find fault with her performance regarding his dead sister. --

“You maybe isn’t a whore, but you is for damn sure a witch. I seen you at the opera house once and twice and knows you is a witch, and the Book says not to suffer a witch to live.”


“But it also says a lot of other stuff,” I pleaded. “Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to go and sin no more, to love thy neighbor as thyself. Don’t just take the part that justifies murdering somebody.”


and later, they have to exhume the body of a murdered girl in order to obtain some evidence. --

“All right, boys. Seal her up and get her back into the ground.”

“Wait,” I said.

“For what?” Calder asked.

“We should say something.”

“She’s right,” McCarty said.

“Go ahead,” Calder said to me.

“I’m no preacher.”

“You’re the closest thing we’ve got,” McCarty said.

“All right.” I told the men to doff their hats, although Calder wasn’t wearing a hat, as usual. Then I cleared my throat and bowed my head.

“I wish you could hear me,” I said. “Because if you could, I’d tell you that you aren’t forgotten, that even if we don’t know your name, there are good people here who care about what happened to you. We’re going to try to help you find some rest.”


And this is my favorite scene in the whole book.  It might not make you cry but me, I did.  Ophelia is riding to her death and has a hard task to accomplish first: 


"The problem with ravens and other corvids is that once they imprint on a person, it’s for life. If given to another owner, they become deeply melancholic and often will themselves dead. I had raised Eddie since he was just a baby. If I left him for someone else to take care of, even somebody as kind as Doc McCarty, odds were that Eddie would soon become miserable and would eventually die.


So there was only one thing to do. I opened the cage and reached my hand in. Eddie rubbed his beak against my fingers, the membrane over his eyes half closing in contentment. Then I took him out of the cage and held him for a moment on my forearm, stroking his gleaming blue-black feathers.

“I’m sorry, Eddie,” I said. “My hand is played out and I’m about to jump off the edge of the world for God knows where. I don’t expect to come back, considering the amount of weaponry Calder was preparing, and from the tone of his voice. . . It’s better to die trying than to just sit and waste away into somebody else, don’t you think?”

He cocked his head. “I know. It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry.” I started to cry. “At least this way, you’ll have a chance,” I said.

“Ravens are smart, and you’re the smartest of them all. Why, if you could learn the things I taught you, you will do just fine on your own. But you’ll have to look out for hawks and eagles, and probably hang around town so you can eat scraps the restaurants throw out their back doors.”

I wiped my eyes with the back of my free hand. “And who knows?” I told him. “Maybe I will come back, and you’ll still be here in Dodge, and you’ll find me and we’ll be like we always were— inseparable. What do you think, baby? We’ll meet again, right?”


Now I was truly bawling. I carried him to the open window. “Go on,” I said. He didn’t budge. “Take off,” I said. “You’re free.” He swiveled his head to look at me with first one eye, and then the other.

“Fly, damn it!” I shoved my arm out the window and shook it, and Eddie squawked and snarled and dug his claws into my arm, trying to hang on. Then I shook harder, and Eddie flew off. He swung out low over North Front, flapped over the train depot, and then turned sharply, coming back to the hotel.

I slammed the window shut."



There's still time to read the second in the series before Halloween is over.  This was a Kindle Unlimited, but depending how the next book plays out, I may end up adding it to my own library.


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text 2015-10-31 05:11
I was planning to finish this last night . . .
Of Grave Concern:: An Ophelia Wylde Paranormal Mystery - Max McCoy

. . . But found it annoying and couldn't get into it.


tonight, it's getting better.


“What do they do with all those hides, anyway?”

“They cut them up to make belts to drive machinery back East. Whether it’s steam power or water power, the power has to be transmitted to the pulleys somehow, and buffalo hide is cheap and wears well. Also, the bones can be ground into fertilizer.”

“So the buffalo are being turned into the very things that hasten their demise— fertilizer for farmland and pulleys to drive machinery that produces everything from guns to barbed wire.”

“How is that different than the Comanche using buffalo meat for food and the hide for their lodges and the tails for fly swatters?”

“One is a matter of need,” I said. “The other is just an example of greed.”


i was under the impression that they stripped the skins and left the carcasses to rot.  I was not aware that they used the bones for fertilizer. So, not quite such a travesty.  


No, still a travesty.  But also, old news.  There's plenty more to take its place in contemporary time.



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text 2015-10-29 23:11
This one starts great. Think I'll be finishing it tonight.
Of Grave Concern:: An Ophelia Wylde Paranormal Mystery - Max McCoy

I saw the dead girl from the window of the train as we passed the Hundredth Meridian marker, but I didn’t say anything.


She was lying atop the bronze tablet, turned on her right side with her knees drawn up, as if asleep. I knew she was dead because her throat had been cut. Her hair was straight and blond and riffled by the breeze, and the ends were stained claret where they had trailed in the blood. Her flower print calico dress was torn to the waist; her corset was popped open, and judging from her bare shoulders, she was young. The hem of her dress was bunched around her scuffed knees, her hose had fallen, and she wore only one lace shoe, her left. Her right arm was outstretched, with the hand clenched, blue fingers squeezed tightly over something.


Few things now surprise me, but I covered my mouth and uttered a bit of a gasp. Instinctively, my left hand went out to Eddie’s cage on the seat beside me, seeking a familiar comfort. Then the train slid by a row of warehouses, cutting off my view of anything but unpainted lumber.


“Dodge City!” the conductor called, walking unsteadily through the coach, one hand on each chair back, as if pulling himself along. “Ten- minute stop for coal and water. Dodge City!”

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review 2014-10-02 20:08
A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak
A Matter of Grave Concern - Brenda Novak

****Full Review****


I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review


When does the end justify the means? Is it when individuals who have limited options become resurrectionist? Is it when medical colleges pay for bodies procured from nefarious ways to study and try to further knowledge of human anatomy? How about when a daughter lies to her father to help further his career or a man lying to the woman he is falling in love with in order to keep searching for his missing half sister? A Matter of Grave Concern takes on all these scenarios and leaves the reader questioning just what constitutes right and wrong.

Abigail lost her mother at a very young age leaving her to grasp even more for love from her absent surgeon father. She essentially has taken on the role as caretaker at her father's medical college hoping that some day she will be admitted to follow in her father's footsteps. As family members cringe from the thought of their deceased loved ones being inspected after death, colleges are having a hard time supplying specimens for their students to learn from, thus Abigail contacts the London Supply Company. However, when this company of body snatchers arrives, they prove to be a bit much for Abigail to handle, especially one particular member. Max Wilder is looking for his half sister Madeline which has led him to Jack, the leader of the London Supply Company. As he sticks close to Jack looking for clues he finds himself in Abigail's home looking for a way to simultaneously protect her from Jack and teach her to never deal with resurrectionist again.

This book started off incredibly intriguing as it deals with a topic often shied away from and had a dark intensity emitting from the characters. Abigail and Max had good banter and friction but when Abigail embarks on a rather dubious course and gets essentially kidnapped, I thought her and Max joined together way too soon; their love connection just wasn't believable yet. Abigail is sweetly naïve but her blunt speech and terms she uses can be rather jarring at times. Her willingness to use a word like cock is explained away by her having no real world experience and learning everything from medical texts but her lack of shyness with Max seemed a bit unrealistic at times. Max was a hard character to connect with as his reasons for why he is with Jack and his very identity are doled out sparingly, hidden, or kept secret for most of the book. In fact, when certain details are revealed as to why he is trying to keep Abigail at a particular distance are made known, he comes off as kind of a jerk. One of these details is rather unneeded as it (the character) add nothing to the story, is never seen, and seems tagged on to an already full list of why Max can't be with Abigail; in other words, very overdone. Together, they definitely had a beginning spark but as the story moves on it fizzles out as Abigail quite suddenly decides to give up her lifelong dream of being a surgeon to stay with Max and Max "wants" Abigail but continues to (sort of) push her away because he "can't" have her.

As I said, this had a strong start but seemed to lose its way as the middle gets bogged down with repetitiveness, unanswered questions about Max, and a slow pace. The dialogue between Abigail and Max can get fairly vulgar at times, which didn't bother me like it may some but was surprising for the time period this takes place and how I originally pictured Abigail's character. The ending with all its mysteries revealed and problems solved wrapped up a bit quickly and with a little too neat of a bow; the epilogue was also very gooey sweet.

Ms. Novak's writing is meritorious; she just seemed to lose her way in the middle. If you are looking for a regency that deals with something other than ballrooms, want a little more spice to your bedroom dialogue than is usually seen in this fare, and a bit slower moving then this could be for you. A Matter of Grave Concern is definitely different, I'm just not sure it's good.

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text 2014-09-18 04:15
Misses the Mark
A Matter of Grave Concern - Brenda Novak

This book started off incredibly intriguing as it deals with a topic often shied away from and had a dark intensity emitting from the characters. If you are looking for a regency that deals with something other than ballrooms, want a little more spice to your bedroom dialogue than is usually seen in this fare, and a bit slower moving then this could be for you. A Matter of Grave Concern is definitely different, I'm just not sure it's good.

Full review to be posted closer to publication date.

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