My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.
It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.
Summary from GoodReads.
Amelia Gray’s childhood of caring for graveyards and dodging ghosts shaped her adult life. In her world, ghosts will siphon off your warmth and energy, feeding like psychic vampires. As a cemetery restorer she spends her days resurrecting to the resting place of the dead and carefully following the rules her father taught her:
1. Never acknowledge the dead. Not their presence or their touch.
2. Never stray too far from hallowed ground.
3. Keep your distance from those who are haunted.
4. Never, ever tempt fate.
But this lifetime of training and daily isolation is destroyed when the cemetery she is working at becomes a crime scene. Enter Detective John Devlin who needs her help identifying the grave symbolism behind the body’s burial. Although attracted to his magnetism, Amelia fights to stay away from a man haunted by the ghosts of his wife and daughter. But with the discovery of more bodies, does she risk becoming involved with a man walking with death? And is there more to the dead than her father taught her?
A serial killer, a secret society, a cemetery with possible ties to the Underground Railroad and the paranormal combine in The Restorer, the first book in The Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens. As our narrator through all things ghostly, Amelia Gray is a character who embodies her name – living a half life caring for graveyards and getting most of her interaction through her blog “Digging Graves.” While she has friends (and her family) that she is close to, she maintains a distance between her life and the life of those who do not deal with the paranormal.
Everything changes when she meets Devlin, the handsome, mysterious and haunted detective. Stuck between the pull of his dead wife and child and the life going on around him, Devlin has also separated himself from long lasting connections. Able to view the dead that walk him at all times, Amelia starts to break through that barrier, only to discover that her knowledge of the dead is incomplete, and what she doesn’t know…well, yeah, it just might kill her. This also sets the reader up for the inevitable oscillations of John and Amelia’s relationship throughout the series.*
In first book tradition, there are some awkward passages and dialogue involved in the introduction to the world and the characters that inhabit it. We’re treated to the city of Charleston, SC in all its hot, southern glory, and although Amelia’s narrative occasionally verges on the lavender side, Stevens otherwise provides unique insight into the world of malevolent ghosts and the ceremony behind cemeteries. Despite being someone who has always found the idea of burying people in ground creepy, I’m intrigued enough by Amelia’s imparted knowledge that I’m considering going to one of the pioneer cemeteries in my area.
As The Graveyard Queen series continues, I believe that the issues I’ve highlighted above will fade and Amelia will join the ranks of the paranormal heroines that have come before her. Unlike other series leads however, Amelia is not out to kick ass and ask questions later. Her job and life reflect her nature as an observer (although often a covert one), and this is reflected in her quiet nature. With the dangling threads of Amelia’s origins, her mother’s health, Devlin’s ghosts and the hold Emerson’s secret society has over Charleston yet to be explored, Steven’s has plenty of fodder for future novels.
Recommended for mystery and urban fantasy readers who are looking for something a little different.
You can purchase The Restorer from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.
Book Source: The library, where books go to live forever (or at least until they fall apart…. And are resurrected, like zombies).
*Steven’s also introduces two side characters who will (probably) later serve as possible love interests.