A Bat in the Belfry by Sarah Graves

Pub date: April 30, 2013

The discovery of teenager Karen Hansen’s mutilated corpse in the belfry of the All Faith Chapel shakes the tiny town of Eastport, Maine to its core. Could one of their own have done such a thing? The consensus is no, so the police turn their attentions to visiting true-crime investigator Chip Hahn. Luckily for Chip, though, his host in Eastport is amateur sleuth Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree. Jake knows Chip is innocent, but can she prove it before her guest is charged with a crime he didn’t commit?

A Bat in the Belfry is the sixteenth of Sarah Graves’ Home Repair is Homicide Mysteries. As a native Mainer, I’m a fairly harsh critic of books set in my fair state; too often, uninformed writers paint Maine like an alien planet, overrun with toothless hicks and uneducated fisherman who subsist on nothing but lobster and blueberries and who have never seen a television, let alone owned a cell phone or surfed the internet. Such is not the case with Sarah Graves, however; Graves does the Down East region justice, nailing not only the scents, sounds, sights, and people, but the culture, as well, and for that, she has earned both my respect and my sincere appreciation.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s a damn good storyteller, to boot. Graves’ prose is sharp, smart, and witty. She writes lush and vivid descriptions of people and places alike. Her characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, with genuine reactions and emotions and dialogue that rings true. She beautifully balances moments of terror and sadness with humor and warmth, preventing the book from becoming too dark or feeling too light. And her storytelling style is unique, clever, and wonderfully effective at drawing you into her tale. Graves seamlessly alternates between a first-person narrative and a third-person one, not only making the story feel more intimate, but more immersive, as well.

Katrina Niidas Holm