One of the perks of being an editor is that you get to read amazing manuscripts first before they turn into best-selling books in the future, let alone the fact that you are part of the production of it. So being an editor, you can actually brag when a book you edited becomes a best seller. You can say, “I am literally the first person to read that book.” Now, speaking of that line, I want to feature the very first book I worked on when I started my job as an editor in Tate Publishing and which I think has the potential to be a best-seller: Gravy, Grits, and Graves by Vicki Blair.
If you happened to have visited by Recommended Thingies page, it is actually listed under the book section. Gravy, Grits, and Graves is a thriller mystery novel with a hint of mafia-style conspiracy. I will paste the back matter of the book below (next paragraph) to give you an idea of the plot (I do not want to give you the summary of it because I don’t want to spoil the thrill and mystery that Blair has masterfully crafted for her readers).
Underneath the squeaky clean surface of the town of McWhorter, Kentucky, lies a secret club. Controlled by Jock, the town’s mayor, this club decides the fate of McWhorter over servings of sausage gravy and cathead biscuits during Tuesday morning breakfast meetings. No one who dares cross Jock survives long.
So when a Baptist housewife decides to run against Mayor Ledford in the May primary, neither she nor the mayor have any idea of the hornet’s nest being stirred up.
When hometown basketball hero Trooper Daniel Brooks returns to McWhorter, he’s assigned to investigate the mysterious deaths of many of the mayor’s Tuesday Club members. During the investigations, Daniel renews his relationship with the mayor’s daughter, Caroline Ledford, whom he has been planning to marry since he was ten years old. When a feisty blond FBI agent named Tillie Grant arrives in McWhorter, Daniel finds himself entrapped in a love triangle. His life is further complicated when he realizes both women have motive and means to commit the very murders he is investigating. He soon finds out that the recipe for small town justice includes Gravy, Grits, and Graves.
Blair’s book is one of my favourites so far. The twists and turns of events and characterizations were really unexpected. You are really going to get the mystery and thrill that you are looking for in a book of this genre. Here are the reasons why.
The Tuesday Club is a mafia-like group of people who run the town in a very subtle manner. Now, who would expect that a small town in Kentucky would be under the control of these people? Although some may argue that this element is common in many books, but Blair had her own way of doing it. The members of the club were not named, despite the book contained so many chapters of the Tuesday Club meetings. Rather, the members are referred to using their town occupations: district attorney, banker, deputy sheriff, and the likes (with the exception of the newest member who was referred to as the prodigy). The only member named directly is the town mayor; however, as the story progressed and the killings are getting more and more regular, the members’ identity are revealed—and believe me or not, you would not expect those characters to be a member of the club. Now, this unnaming of the members gave so much twist in the end. How? I will not spoil you.
The Avenger and His Killing
The Avenger is the one who is responsible for the killings. Blair named him that way and did not directly reveal his identity. This unnamed character is very crafty when it comes to killing the Tuesday Club members, making it all look like an accident (killings using a snake, poison gas in the shower, panther attack, provoked bull attack). Things that only a mind of a real avenger could think. But I give all the credit to the author for coming up with these surprises. Also, if you are going to read the book, I challenge you to guess who the killer is within the first half of the story (I would even congratulate you if you were able to correctly guess who the Avenger is with three-quarters of the plot), and tell me if you were right by leaving a comment below.
The Embedded Love Story
Within the plot, there is the embedded story of Daniel and Caroline and Tilly and Trevor. Okay, that might seem too much, but no, it is not. So here’s the picture: Daniel and Caroline are former lovers, Daniel fell in love with Tilly, Tilly also fell in love with Daniel, Trevor—who is Tilly’s twin brother—fell in love with Caroline, but Caroline desperately wants Daniel back despite having casual relationship with Trevor. Now, this is not the usual love triangle we read in romance novels; this much more of—for the lack of better word—a love quadrangle. Now this element of the story is interesting enough for you to wonder what would happen to them and how this strange mix-up end, but it did not overshadow the main plot of the story. Blair’s did a very great job mixing the two plots in a well balanced way. And also, this romance is filled with thrill and mystery (and a hint of comedy). Now take note of this, Tilly and Caroline were shown to have children—of course there is tha safe conclusion that the father of Tilly’s child is Daniel—now, I want you decide who the father of Caroline’s child is.
The Diversity of Characterization
While editing, we are tasked to list down the names of major characters (or even minor ones if they have a relevant contribution to the conflict or resolution), and this book has one of the longest list I have ever made. But each character has his and her very own complexity. One cannot say that each was irrelevant, even those who were just given little description or role in the story. Every character’s life and actions were intermingling despite the fact that they did not meet each other, let alone think that one or the other eve existed. Creating a diverse and complex character profiles and set them intertwined in a very genius plot is amazing enough. I challenge you to remember all the characters for you to solve the mystery of this novel—never forget any of them, even just the ones passively mentioned.
Of course, most people decide how great a novel is on how it ends. Blair’s novel ended in the way that I did not even expect. The revelation of the Avenger’s identity, the reason why Tilly and Daniel were not able to solve the mystery despite their prowess and reputation as the best crime puzzle solver, the way the embedded love story ended, the fall of the Tuesday Club, and what happened to the rest of the characters—these are just some of the twists that Blair masterfully crafted, and these await you.
All in all, I rate the book five stars for its genre and 4 stars in general. There are questions about the story, but I will not include them here because they might also be spoilers. But these unanswered questions that I have makes the book even more mysterious.
Gravy, Grits, and Graves is published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises LLC and was officially released today, March 12, 2013 (and I am also part of its publicity as I was the one who wrote and distributed its press releases to appropriate media outlets). It is available in Tate Publishing online bookstore, Barns and Noble, Amazon, and other local bookstores. You can search the net to get a copy. But I highly recommend accessing Tate’s online bookstore and get a copy directly from the publisher.
About the Author
Blair attributes the influences of her fathers—one a republican, the other a democrat—and her law enforcement husband in her balanced perspective of politics which enabled her to write a political thriller. She and her husband reside in London, Kentucky, with their three children and two dogs.
Contact her via Twitter: @vickiblair28