Blog tour: His Favourite Graves by Paul Cleave

His Favourite Graves

This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

‘Acacia Pines, USA. Sheriff Cohen’s life is falling apart – his father accidently burned down the retirement home, his wife has moved out, and his son is bullying other kids at school.

‘When high-school student Lucas Connor is abducted, Cohen sees a chance to get his life back on track – to win back his wife and scoop the reward money offered for Lucas’ safe return.

‘But as the body count rises, it becomes clear that Cohen’s going to have to make the kind of decision from which there’s no coming back… a decision with deadly consequences…’

His Favourite Graves

His Favourite Graves, by Paul Cleave, is a story of three desperate men: ‘Simple’ Simon Grove, a janitor who takes his childhood of abuse out on other people; Sheriff James Cohen, who’s in financial straits and trying to save his home and marriage; and Lucas Connor, a troubled teenager who survives being abducted by Grove, but continues to be badly bullied at school.

When Sheriff Cohen misdirects the manhunt for Grove so he can collect the reward money for himself, he doesn’t reckon on Lucas spectacularly disrupting his plan – or the role his own wayward son, Nathan, will play in the dark series of events that unfolds.

I very much enjoy Paul Cleave’s high-concept, no-holds-barred thrillers (see: The Pain Tourist, The Quiet People), and His Favourite Graves was no exception. At first, I was like ‘okay, this one seems pretty straightforward, when does it go off-piste?’ and then I was like ‘oh… OH!’

After the initial revelation of what Sheriff Cohen’s up to, it’s twist after twist, as nothing goes quite how he envisioned it when he made that impulsive first move. Think farce – but very dark! There are some rather horrible scenes, but these are offset by the black humour and irony that lace the book.

This duality extends to the main characters, in that I felt sympathy for them, but was shocked and outraged by their eventual actions all the same. Grove and Lucas in particular might not be considered fully responsible for their awful behaviour, given their disturbing experiences and mental health issues.

Sheriff Cohen, meanwhile, is a normally stable man in desperate circumstances that get more and more out of control. His extreme actions are less mitigable than the others’ – he can’t even justify them himself – and beg the question: what would you really do in a situation where you could lose everything?

Cohen’s reaction to discovering how nasty his son is to his fellow high school students, as well as the kind, respectful reception he gets from his colleagues and others he comes into contact with, also speak to his previous good character and make him difficult to outright condemn.

Father-son relationships are another theme this book offers the reader to chew over. Grove’s experiences with his birth father and foster fathers twist his mind, while Cohen, and Lucas’ father, have very different ways of dealing with their adolescent sons’ messes.

This was a wild ride of a story, and while a lot of things happen in it that are unfair for various characters, I was satisfied by the ending. I revelled in the final revelations, which I’m still thinking about a few days after finishing!

His Favourite Graves is dark, thought-provoking, and full of surprises.

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About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK