Merrimon Book Reviews

1533 account of the execution of a witch

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick

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Mary Jane's Grave
Mary Jane's Grave by Stacy Dittrich
by Stacy Dittrich 

Intelligent thrill-ride and refreshingly multi-layered

When Detective CeeCee Gallagher receives a call about a homicide at Mount Olive Cemetery, naturally she must ask about Mary Jane's Grave.  Legend tells of witchcraft and her execution by hanging.  Some residents think her spirit haunts the grave to this day.  The location and the crime details of the young woman's murder bring an urgency to this case.  The eyewitness accounts all speak of eerie phenomena, but CeeCee Gallagher doesn't believe in ghosts.  She knows she must hunt for the real culprit behind this crime.  Her investigation takes her deep into the hidden past of Mansfield, Ohio and a past no one seems to want uncovered.  The past leads her on a journey across both time and space as she must look elsewhere to uncover all the links to past crimes committed near Mary Jane's grave.  As all the pieces start falling into place, Detective CeeCee Gallagher is in a race against time with her very life at stake to solve the mystery and catch the killer in a case that might even find her believing in ghosts.

In MARY JANE'S GRAVE, the second CeeCee Gallagher thriller, Stacy Dittrich steps up her game considerably.  Every element of plot, characterization, and crime detail work together to create an intelligent thrill-ride that keeps a reader glued to the pages.  A refreshingly multi-layered detective and a complex, intriguing case to match create a gripping combination.  CeeCee is a tough investigator with professional skills and a intuition that keeps her from ignoring the troubling details of the crimes.  When others around her may not see all the links, she has the determination to consider all the connections.  Her personal life is a mess with as many fascinating twists and turns as the murders she investigates.   The cold case element adds richness and complexity and depth, not only to the crime itself but to CeeCee's personal life and choices.  MARY JANE'S GRAVE joins elements of the supernatural with archival research to uncover secrets that send chills down the spine from the mind of the killer to the dynmics within a town's history that hide unspeakable crimes. 

MARY JANE'S GRAVE can be read as a stand-alone.  The author gives enough clues so that a reader captures glimpses of the detective's life without bogging down the story.  The main difficulty with reading this as a stand-alone is that the identity of the killer in her debut book THE DEVIL'S CLOSET is revealed.  I found MARY JANE'S GRAVE so compelling that I am now reading her first book so that I will know the characters' past better before the third book is released in 2010 --- a book release I eagerly await.  Personally, it works for me reading the books in reverse order to see how much the author's writing style has truly grown but if knowing the identity in advance bothers you, you might want to start at the beginnning of the CeeCee Gallagher books.  In MARY JANE'S GRAVE, Stacy Dittrich just seems to have gone from the fascinating crime in her debut to truly finding a unique voice and presentation.  MARY JANE'S GRAVE is a stunning work of suspense with a refreshingly original look into a horrific crime.  If you love engaging suspense, Stacy Dittrich is definitely an amazing new talent in the genre!

Publisher: Dorchester - Leisure Fiction (April 2009)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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