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Police procedural set in fictional small town USA

9th November 2023

His Favourite Graves by Paul Cleave, police procedural set in fictional small town USA (Acacia Pines).

Police procedural set in fictional small town USA

The author has a very cinematic writing style, and as a reader it is easy to see the story evolving in 3-d. At the heart of this novel are a series of dysfunctional relationships between fathers and sons. There is Lucas – one of the main characters – who struggles with his father, a published author and alcoholic. There is the perpetrator of the opening crime who was abused by his stepfather. And the investigating sheriff – Sheriff Cohen – whose own father, suffering from dementia, managed to burn down his nursing home and now lodges with his son. The author has a gift for plucking at the sympathy strings on behalf of his characters and at times he almost makes their individual plights relatable, as he paints the relational settings in which the different people find themselves.

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The novel opens with young school student Lucas, who is being bullied and who now has been imprisoned in a school locker. Everyone bar the caretaker has long since gone and the rising panic of  the boy in his incarceration is palpable. He could die due to lack of oxygen, he can hardly move, it feels suffocating. He is rescued but then subjected to kidnap and then torture. Sheriff Cohen has his work cut out and as the body count rises, he has to face the consequences of his decisions.

The adults tend to know each other in this backwater because this is small town America, and many people have grown up and stayed in the same place. Newcomers come and go, histories hover in the background, decisions come home to roost and tensions sizzle. The sense of place is very well evoked. The author is a very competent writer and the storyline evolves with a cracking set of twists and turns. The violence, for me, had me screwing up my eyes  – you have been warned 😉!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Catch the author on Twitter @PaulCleave 

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