Reviews by L. J. Roberts

DAVID HOUSEWRIGHT – From the Grave. Rushmore McKenzie #17. Minotaur, hardcover, July 2020.

First Sentence: The young woman who identified herself as a psychic medium moved with almost absentminded confidence among the fifty people who had paid forty dollars each for a seat in the community center lecture hall with the hope that she might help them connect with a dead mother or father, uncle or aunt, a dead child — but no promises.

   From a friend who attended a psychic reading, former cop Rushmore McKenzie learns of a threat placed on his life by the spirit of Leland Hayes. McKenzie killed Hayes after Hayes escaped the scene of an armored car robbery leaving his son Ryan to take the fall. The money was never recovered. Now, more than 21 years later, a highly skeptical McKenzie becomes involved with two psychic mediums to find the money and, due to one of the mediums, to locate a missing woman.

   To add a bit of light to the dark, McKenzie’s partner, Nina owns a jazz club thought to be haunted. Nina’s concern about the influence her late mother had her present actions gives both history and insight into the character.

   Set in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Housewright creates a strong sense of place, even for something as basic as Nina’s condo. The interplay between the two characters is easy and natural— “I like your outfit.” “Really? Last night you couldn’t wait for me to take it off.” —and a particular conversation between them provides good background and an explanation of their relationship. McKenzie’s unpleasant neighbor provides a touch of normalcy. Mackenzie has an inner monologue that is used sparingly and effectively, often with a touch of humor. Housewright has also given him an excellent playlist.

   It is always fun when an author references other authors. Because of the psychic aspect, he also references a number of popular paranormal investigation shows, but it is McKenzie’s skepticism which keeps things grounded, until his skepticism is tested. Learning what goes on in the making of such shows is both interesting and demystifying without taking away from the possibility of actuality.

   The other characters are well presented, with a couple of inside jokes. It is hard to say much about some of them, except that Housewright’s approach to his characters is refreshing. There are several people out to find the missing money. And some are what one might expect.

   As the 17th book in the Rushmore McKenzie series, this book is somewhat lighter and less suspenseful than some. In this time of COVID-19 when many are having trouble concentrating, that’s not a bad thing. Even so, the story does not lack for twists and red herrings.

   From the Grave, at its foundation, is a solid mystery, well-constructed and enjoyable. One may, or may not, accept the paranormal aspect, but it does provide an extra layer of creativity. However, best of all, is the ending that makes one smile.

Rating: A minus.