Amelia Grey is a cemetery restorer living in South Carolina and working among the crumbling, centuries-old graves of the Old South. Cemeteries are as much a home to Amelia as the four walls she returns to after work each night, having grown up in graveyards at the heels of her father, who worked a similar job to the career that now consumes most of Amelia’s waking hours. But there’s another, darker aspect of Amelia’s life that she also has in common with her father, and that’s the ability to see ghosts. The dead are everywhere in her life, and she knows that if she acknowledges them, if she lets them in, then their parasitic nature will take over and she will become a woman haunted, a woman whose life is no longer her own. So Amelia keeps to the shadows, living strictly by the rules her father set out for her when she was a child. It’s a solitary life, but at least it’s a safe one. That is, until Police Detective John Devlin needs Amelia’s expertise in relation to a grisly murder discovered in the cemetery she was most recently hired to restore. Now Amelia Gray has no choice but to abandon her father’s rules and jump feet-first into a dark and twisted murder investigation, and into the sights of a killer.
I found The Restorer on Amazon, listed as a recommendation based on a book I had read previously called The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I’d greatly enjoyed this book, so I thought I’d swing by my local bookstore and pick up the recommendation in the hopes that it would be as good. When I searched for The Restorer on the bookstore’s computer, it was listed in the Romance section, which gave me pause. I’ve never been much interested in stories with an overpowering romantic element to begin with, much less books where that was the main theme, and juvenile though it may seem, the thought of being caught traipsing around a section full of covers with half-naked men and women embracing melodramatically was cringe-worthy. But the mystery premise had me intrigued, and being a long-time lover of graveyards myself I already felt a connection to the protagonist, so I swallowed my pride and grabbed a copy. And I am certainly glad I did!
The Restorer is at once a chilling, suspenseful, clever, unique, and occasionally disturbing tale that has stayed with me in the days since putting the book down for a final time. The story is such a gripping one that I finished it in three days, spending hours engulfed in the world Stevens eloquently lays out, and sometimes not coming up for air until the wee hours of the morning. There was a romance, to be sure, thought it was painted as a one-sided infatuation throughout most of the novel, and the romantic interest is a complex, multi-dimensional character; hardly the bland Ken doll I was expecting. But it’s the mystery that takes centre stage throughout the story.
Stevens is adept at weaving her mystery in such a way that you begin to feel you can’t trust a single character beyond the book’s protagonist, and even with my penchant for trying to solve the case before any revelations are made (and usually succeeding in doing so), I was wholly surprised by the outcome.
This is not a book for the faint of heart or for those with over-active imaginations, because while Stevens is good enough to withhold graphic details, she gives you just enough to set your mind spinning with what her subtle descriptions could mean, and this was enough to send my skin crawling.
My only critique was the rather comical amount of times Amelia shivered or shuddered. I understand that creepy situations often illicit such a physical response, but about a quarter of the way through I was mentally shouting at her to wear warmer clothes or go to a doctor to have that looked at, because her shivering and shuddering became that noticeably excessive. But if that is the only negative thing I can say about a book, then really, you’ve got a pretty darn good book on your hands.
If you like mysteries or the paranormal, definitely grab a copy of The Restorer. It’s sure to send chills down your spine. Now I’m itching to get my hands on the next book in the series!