Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

Girl at the Grave is a YA gothic mystery with a love triangle. It’s not deep, and the solution to the mystery is utterly unbelievable. However, I read it on a rainy day with a cup of tea and enjoyed it for the most part, despite its flaws. If you are in the mood for a weird village and plots and rich snobs and an old decrepit mansion, then this may pass the time quite nicely.

The story is told in first person, past tense, by Valentine Deluca, and is set in a Connecticut village in 1849. With a name like that, one is virtually doomed to be a gothic heroine. Valentine is a young woman who is about to graduate from Drake Academy, a private school. A “mysterious benefactor” has paid for her schooling. She is intelligent but bullied by other students because of her poverty and her family’s past.

Valentine lives with her father in a crumbling mansion. When she was a young child, she witnessed a murder. Her mother (who was once wealthy but fell on hard times) was hung for the murder and Valentine became an outcast. Her only friends are Sam Frye, Rowan Blackwood, and a mentally disabled woman called Birdy. Valentine finds herself trying to resolve her romantic problems and solve a murder mystery, which involves her recovering the suppressed memories she has of the night that her mother shot someone. Her memories are foggy because she was very young. It’s not full-on amnesia, or, as I like to say, AMNESIA! It’s pretty close, though. There are even some touches of SECRET BABY! in the mix. It’s all quite complicated.

Here are a few of the elements you will encounter in this story:

  • Mean girls.
  • Menacing men.
  • A love triangle.
  • A graveyard.
  • Art.
  • Cloaks.
  • Missing relatives.
  • A problematic fridging.
  • Tea.

This book does have some serious problems. Valentine does not acquit herself well in the love triangle (I felt that she was less than honest with her suitors). I disliked the mean girls because I considered them to be too stereotypical, although, in fairness, almost everyone in the story is mean in their own unique way. Valentine meets her father’s secret girlfriend, and they hit it off, but she’s barely mentioned again – and I don’t think anyone tells her about the father’s ultimate fate.

Then there’s the problematic fridging:

Show Spoiler
Birdy is killed off page and barely mentioned again, which I found to be very messy writing as well as problematic. Granted, Birdy is but one of many who wind up dead in the book, but the abruptness of her death and the lack of impact it has is jarring.

Most crucially, there’s a mystery to solve, and its resolution is ridiculous. Not only is it out of character but also I strongly suspect that it would be physically impossible. Given how central the mystery is to the story, I have to knock the book down to a C+. The “+” is because atmospherically, the book is very enjoyable. If you are in the right mood, it’s not too long or short, and atmospheric as can be.

Frankly, I never got excited about the romance, though I did like the way Valentine resolves it. Her solution was unexpected and yet it made sense for her character (she chooses a third option). The mystery resolution, though, was terribly unsatisfying. This book is good for a rainy day – just don’t get too invested in the mystery even though that’s the focal point of the book. You will be very disappointed.


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