In The Graves of the Guilty, Ellery Adams’ third book in her Hope Street Church Mystery series, Cooper Lee gets a frantic phone call from her sister, who has just discovered the body of a murdered man in the trunk of the car she has borrowed from her husband’s car dealership while they service her own car. When the police seem to put on the back burner the investigation of the death of Lincoln’s employee, Miguel, whom they have discovered with fake identification, Cooper tells her sister that she will do what she can to find out what happened to Miguel. Cooper and her friends from her Bible study, in particular her boyfriend, Nathan, discover that Miguel has so much more money than he earned at his job at the car dealership that they suspect an involvement in drugs.
Edward Crosby, the recently-paroled son of one of the seniors murdered in the previous book, The Way of the Wicked, appears to have reformed his life as a drug dealer as a result of the faith shown in him by Cooper, so he gets involved as a way to repay Cooper for solving the murder of his father. He takes Cooper on undercover investigations into sinister places, including a pool tournament at a strip club on Valentine’s Day, where she meets a big drug kingpin. But Edward has a sense of mystery about him. Has he truly reformed, or is this just a pose?
The Graves of the Guilty does a great job as a cozy mystery. The Bible study group does less investigation together, something seen plenty of in the previous two books, but that does not mean that the group does not play a significant role in the story. One member of the group announces to them that she has breast cancer, and they all do their part to support her through the severe side effects of her chemotherapy.
One theme that this book explores is the way that good can come out of difficulties in one’s life. Cooper’s sister, Ashley, has had problems in her marriage, with her husband’s becoming more distant just as Ashley desperately wants to have a baby, but the problems arising from Ashley’s discovery of the body of Lincoln’s employee bring them together. The Bible study members see how their own relationship with their friend with breast cancer draws them all together. In addition, the woman’s family becomes close in a way that they have never experienced before. Both Nathan and Cooper find themselves being attracted to other people, in Cooper’s case, to the bad-boy Edward, but they both come to realize that those stirrings do not represent their true feelings and that their true love is for each other.
This Christian book impresses me for the way it shows Christians in a positive light without making them saints. We see each Bible study member struggle with her or his own personal life to different degrees. They come across as genuine in their personal lives and happy to get to support each other. The book is Christian without preaching, mild enough in its religious elements that most non-Christians can feel unthreatened if they read this book.
My one complaint is the regular use of the word “illegal” as a noun when describing Miguel, the murdered car dealership employee rather than saying that he is an illegal immigrant. The word illegal is an adjective, not a noun, and describes the status of an immigrant, not the full identity of a person, to which the use of it as a noun reduces an individual.
Cris Dukeheart performs the audio version of The Graves of the Guilty and makes the book come to life.
This book does not have the same organization of The Way of the Wicked, which connects the plot of the book to the material covered by the Bible study group. But the plot still moves well with good quality and made me enjoy the many questions that the story raises. I give this book four stars.
Graves of the Guilty is out in multiple formats. To order from Amazon, click here.