Gritty, Authentic Police Procedural | Review of An Unsettled Grave by Bernard Schaffer
Publication Date: July 30th, 2019
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Page Count: 288
Why I Picked It Up: The author emailed me personally to ask for a review! And his pitch was so well done, he inspired me to write “How to Pitch Your Book to a Book Blogger”.
Synopsis: [Warning- this is Book 2 in the series and there are spoilers of Book 1 in the synopsis] Before being promoted to detective, Carrie Santero was given a rare glimpse into the mind of a killer. Through her mentor, Jacob Rein--a seasoned manhunter whose gift for plumbing the depths of madness nearly drove him over the brink--she was able to help capture one of the most depraved serial killers in the country. Now, the discovery of a small human foot buried in the Pennsylvania woods will lead her to a decades-old cold case--and the darkest secrets of her mentor's youth.
"Nobody trusts an animal that tries to eat its own kind."
Thirty years ago, a young girl went missing. A police officer was murdered. Another committed suicide. The lives of everyone involved would never be the same. For three agonizing decades, Jacob Rein has yearned for the truth. But when Detective Carrie Santero begins digging up new evidence, she discovers some answers come with shattering consequences.
Opening Sentence: “Out in the long stretches of road beyond the lights of the supermarkets and shopping centers, she drove.”
My Thoughts: First of all, I would not recommend this for sensitive readers. Most of the violence happens off the page, but this is a gritty story. That said, I really enjoyed it. I went in with no expectations and was completely impressed. Throughout 5 sections, we follow 3 interlocking stories. The book opens with a young woman being raped by someone who appears to be a cop. When Detective Cassie Santero pushes to test the DNA of her fellow officers, the chief sends her off to do work on a cold case in a nearby small town. Turns out, her mentor Jacob Rein is intimately connected to the person whose foot they found in the Pennsylvania woods, making Cassie in danger of agitating both her recovering friend and her Chief. The third story is told via flashback, where we meet Jacob (then, J.D) as a kid and find out what really happened to the girl in the woods.
The stories seamlessly weave into one another and I never lost track of what was going on. (I hate when alternating stories are so far apart that you spend half the book trying to figure out how they’re connected, and we didn’t get that here). I loved Cassie as a Detective- you can tell the author has a lot of respect for women in law enforcement and for women in general. The police work was so authentic- which makes sense, as the author currently works as a Detective. The story was gritty and filled with tension and small town politics, but I thought it was very well paced. Without spoiling anything, I really liked the end of the story line in the flashback, despite how macabre it was. This reminded me of a blend of Tana French’s In the Woods and David Joy’s The Line That Held Us. My only regret is that I read book 2 first- although I will say, it does hold up as a standalone.
TL; DR: If a gritty police procedural with strong characters and perfect pacing sounds good to you, I’d recommend this. But I would recommend you read Book 1 in the series, The Thief of All Light, first.
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