The Dead Cat Bounce, By Sarah Graves

The Dead Cat Bounce is, in stock terms, that little uptick that happens in the middle of a stock crash. So named because when you throw a dead cat out of the window, it will bounce, but it is still dead. Repulsive, I know, but not coined by me. The book, the first in the Home Repair is Homicide series, is told from the perspective of Jacobia Tiptree, who is a retired financial specialist.

On the heels of a particularly gnarly business trip, Jacobia wanders into the tiny town of Eastport, Maine, and falls in love with what is commonly known as a fixer-upper. She gathers up her money and her son and leaves New York to settle down in a quiet small town. A year later, the story opens with the discovery of a dead body. Antics, as they say, ensue. Her best friend confesses and then leaves cryptic messages for Jacobia with the intention that her messages will ultimately unravel the truth.

Graves then leads the reader down a path of repairing glass window panes, meeting the well-rounded and instantly likeable (or dislikable, as the case may be) characters in Eastport, and yes, even some explosions. Graves has a knack for description - smells, sounds, even the weather - that she couples with dead-on explanations so that the reader can get lost in Eastport and the old, crumbling Victorian. The characters, too, appear and three sentences later you feel as though you know everything about them...well, everything they want you to know. They do live in a small town, after all.

The plot, the clues, the ruses, and the action keep the pages turning quickly. Backstory weaves intricately with current developments and not until Graves wants the answers revealed does the reader clue in. Ok - with one exception, but I’ll give her that. After all, it’s the b-plot. Or c-plot, depending on your perspective.

I accidentally came to this series somewhere in the middle, and so I read this book with a foreknowledge that I don’t usually like to have unless what I’m reading is a prequel. I already know what happens to the bathtub, the son, the best friend, the dog...and yet it hasn’t happened yet and there are many books between now and then. And not one ounce of that knowledge spoiled this first book for me. The writing is sharper in the later book, the characters slightly more honed, the home repair tips researched a little better...but that’s to be expected. By that point, Graves has lived these characters and their lives for years. None of that detracts from the first book in the series, and I will be reading the rest. In order, of course.

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