The Restorer is the first in a new trilogy, being released 26th April 2011, November 2011 and May 2012, with a free prequel available from publisher Harlequin's website. Amelia Gray is the Graveyard Queen, a cemetery restorer and archeologist who sees ghosts. She has always lived by the rules dictated to her by her father to protect herself from the dead. In this, the first book in the series, when a body is found in a cemetery she is restoring, Amelia is asked to help Detective Devlin with the case. If there are clues to be found in the headstones she is the one to interpret them. However allowing him into her life could have serious consequences for her.
The story is told in the first person from Amelia's point of view. Having the narrator be a taphophile (a great new word in my vocab, meaning a cemetery enthusiast) gives the reader a murder mystery told from a completely different angle to that of a police detective or medical examiner. For a start she provides some really interesting information about the symbolism used in headstones. There is also such an enthusiasm conveyed for the beauty that can be found in cemeteries that I doubt I'll look at them in quite the same way again.
As a character Amelia is clearly burdened by her ability to see ghosts, and lonely as she can't share it with anyone. I felt for her, having to deal with her conflict about letting Devlin get close. He is suave and mysterious, and appears to put up barriers as a result of the events in his life to date but is irresistibly attractive to Amelia. There are several supporting characters, drawn in less depth but all with their quirks and their role to play in the story.
As a murder mystery it wasn't one where I looked at the cast of characters and could see a whole list of them as potential suspects. I actually appreciated that, I think I became more involved with the story as I wasn't sat trying to look for more clues and figuring out who was the most likely suspect. This book also proves you can tell a gruesome story without labouring over the gory details.
One of the aspects of the book I enjoyed the most was the setting, Charleston, and the beautifully descriptive prose the author uses to describes the places, including the cemeteries. It conjured up some wonderful and some gothically scary images for me. The only thing that is stopping me giving this book a 5* review is that there were a couple of scenes that could have had my heart thumping as main characters are placed in serious peril but they didn't quite reach enough of a pitch to have that effect. I thought this was really good read though and the epilogue leaves the way temptingly open for the next book in the series which I will definitely be looking out for.
Format: Advance review copy, anticipated release date 26th April 2011
My Rating: 4*