Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: "In Silent Graves" (Gary A. Braunbeck)

Suppose you had the ideal life: loving spouse, dream career, well-kept house. It's so easy, in that situation, to become complacent and think that nothing will ever change.

But, of course, something always does.

Here's the real question. What if nothing was as it seemed?

Author Gary A. Braunbeck explores just that situation, and that question, in his supernatural thriller, In Silent Graves, from his The Cedar Hills series.

The work has garnered dozens of admiring reviews. What I can provide here is a degree of admiration cloaked in something like overwhelmed confusion ... not quite to the point of throwing the book across the room in frustration, but I have to say that that thought crossed my mind more than once as I read.

The story is one of the most intricately woven and complicated I've ever read, and for maintaining all the plot threads and characters and keeping the timeline straight when it is far from chronological (or easily explained ...), I feel great admiration toward the author and his creative prowess. It takes a very gifted, precise mind to keep track of so much information.

I nearly classified In Silent Graves as literary fiction, actually, rather than the commercial-sounding "thriller." Reading it is like reading a work by Dickens, or Austen, or Bronte (pick one). Instead of the usual "Plot Point A to Plot Point B with Subplot Point AA interwoven and here comes Plot Point C with Subplot Point BB attached ..." that is so typical of thrillers and suspense novels, Braunbeck's writing is rich in descriptors, almost archaic in sentence structure (if you cringe over run-on sentences or paragraphs that take up pages and pages at a time, you may want to look elsewhere for entertainment).

At times, I felt thoroughly lost in all the lovely writing, perhaps wondering where the plot line had gone and how far back I'd have to retrace my steps until I picked it up again, and sometimes wondering whether all the literary "fluff" was really necessary for the story. Still, the style remains consistent throughout, and for that, I can express further admiration. The work is a long one.

In many ways, the novel is a kind of frame ... a story within a story (within a story, within a story, sometimes). Think the sick kid in bed whose grandfather reads him The Princess Bride one afternoon; that situation is the frame for the story about Buttercup and Westley and all the others in The Princess Bride.

There are a lot of stories related and pondered and withheld in In Silent Graves, making the feel of the work almost one of sitting around a campfire trading tale after tale with those around you. That the work remains consistent to its shocking conclusion in the face of so many components is, again, remarkable.

I suppose it's more in my nature to prefer a linear story line, rather than one that wanders all over creation (albeit with aplomb and great attention to detail). In that regard, I cannot say that I would reread Braunbeck's novel at a later time. If, however, the idea of a complex, thickly woven and -written literary thriller with supernatural elements appeals to you, than I can recommend no one better.

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Author: Gary A. Braunbeck
Title: In Silent Graves
Series: The Cedar Hills Series
Publisher: JournalStone
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Library Thing in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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