Adrienne Martini Reviews Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Grave Reservations, Cherie Priest (Atria Books 978-1982-16889-6, $26.00, 304pp, hc) October 2021.

My first introduction to Cherie Priest was her amazing debut Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which is about ghosts and the South and is mesmerizing. I’ve drifted in and out of this Locus award-winning (and Nebula and Hugo nominated) writer’s work since then. Even though I loved Boneshaker and am convinced I Am Princess X deserved a lot more love than it received, Priest has knack for horror, which I am too much of a scaredy-cat to enjoy. Even Four and Twenty, which is more “haunt-y” than “scary,” was too much for my delicate constitution.

Grave Reservations, a detective romp with a supernatural twist, shows Priest stretching in a new direction. Where her previous work tended toward the spooky and moody, Grave Reserva­tions is brisk and fun without being so lightweight it simply floats away. It’s the perfect book for a harrowing week/month/year because it only wants to entertain you.

Main character Leda Foley is owner/sole em­ployee of Foley’s Flights of Fancy, a travel agency that she is trying to get off the ground. Foley has the occasional psychic glimpse and one of them prompts her to rebook client (and Seattle police detective) Grady Merritt’s flight without giving him much warning. When the flight he was sup­posed to be on crashes, Merritt wants to know how she knew, and (boom) the plot is in motion.

No, it’s not a deep plot – but the characters and setting are so entertaining that it doesn’t matter. Leda and her best friend Niki have the makings of a Lucy-and-Ethel style comedy powerhouse. Merritt has enough of a backstory to be believable. There are hat tips to other adjacent pop culture, like Leda’s Klairvoyant Karaoke act that owes a nickel to Angel. Priest’s Seattle is its own character – and one of its main traits is the inability to frustrate anyone who drives a car.

Not only is the book itself great fun, so is seeing this side of what Priest can do. While churning out light whodunnits is unlikely to be her new all-the-time gig, it is a lovely change of pace – and I’d be shocked if it’s a one-off.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the August 2021 issue of Locus.

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