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Crawlspace: A Home Repair Is Homicide Mystery (Home Repair Is Homicide Mysteries) Hardcover – December 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: Sarah Graves on Crawlspace

People sometimes ask me whether my characters ever "take over the plot." By that, they mean characters refusing to do what I'd planned for them, so that I end up having to write some other book--or even none at all.

I usually answer humorously (I hope) that this is the handy thing about writing mysteries, that characters who don't do what I wish simply end up meeting their deadly fates much sooner than they expected. But the truth is, it's not as easy as that, so let me try explaining with an analogy, like... riding a horse.

(Yes, I would use a hammering-a-nail analogy, if it worked. But it doesn't. How I wish it were as simple as nail-hammering!)

Anyway: Writing a novel is a little like holding the horse's reins. One rein is plot, the other character. And while I try to have a good grasp on the plot before I begin writing, and on the characters before I write them, inevitably characters have their own ideas, too.

I wasn't surprised, for instance, when two characters in Crawlspace decided that despite their deep differences, muddling along together was far better than being apart. And when one of the series regulars realized that the way to find her courage was to do something really scary... no big surprise there, either. She may be a chicken at heart, but she's not stupid.

The trick is telling the difference between deep conviction--an awareness of love, the determination to conquer fear, the urge to kill--and a random whim. Because one drives plot but the other sends the book galloping off in the wrong direction...

That's why writing a novel takes a light, confident hand on both reins: the one for plot, and the one for the people who are living it. They are my creations, but they mustn't ever know it. In their world, they are independent entities, never made to feel a clumsy tug on the story-bridle or flick of the plot-whip.

They do as I desire, but as with the horse and his lightly-held "steering equipment," if they notice me at all, it's only as a companion along for the ride. Far from being directed, they're as free as wild horses, completely at liberty to do whatever they like and go anywhere they please...

Or so they think. And--psst!--I won't tell them anything different if you won't. --Sarah Graves

(Photo © Pam Edwards)

From Publishers Weekly

In Graves's tepid 13th Home Repair Is Homicide mystery (after 2008's A Face at the Window), true-crime writer Carolyn Rathbone and her unhappy assistant, Chip Hahn, arrive in Eastport, Maine, to research Randy Dodd, a psycho who faked his own death six years earlier after Cordelia Lang Dodd, Randy's wealthy wife, took a fatal fall down the stairs. Now Randy has returned to Eastport after the stabbing murder of Anne Dodd, the wife of his brother, Roger, and Cordelia's sister. Did Randy kill Anne, as the blubbering Roger claims? Soon after kidnapping snoopy Carolyn, a cosmetically altered Randy nabs Sam, series heroine Jake Tiptree's recovering alcoholic son, who's an unlucky witness. Chip, who once befriended Sam, joins sleuthing forces with police chief Bob Arnold, a frantic Jake, and others in an installment marred by a lack of surprises and boring, over-the-top villains, though redeemed in part by an exciting resolution. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Home Repair Is Homicide Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553806807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553806809
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Graves lives with her husband in Eastport, Maine. She is working on the second Lizzie Snow novel, THE GIRLS SHE LEFT BEHIND. Visit her at or

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Mulhern VINE VOICE on January 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am so disappointed in the direction the "Home Repair is Homicide" series has gone. This has always been a quirky and complex series, not what I would really classify as a cozy, but with the last couple of books, I feel like Sarah Graves wants to write a certain kind of stand alone thriller, yet can't let go of Jake and Ellie. And the totally weak and unnecessary subplot involving death threats to Jake- please- what a waste of time! As I mentioned in my review of her last book, "A Face in the Window," I read this series because I love the tidbits about small town Maine life, the adventures Jake has trying to renovate her house, and the relationships between Jake, Ellie and their respective families. In this book, I guess there is a decent storyline, but I feel like tiny bits of the characters are thrown in so she can call it part of the series.

And I have to ask, why do reviewers insist on including detailed plotlines in their reviews?
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By L. Burns VINE VOICE on January 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A surprise phone call from an old acquaintance pulls "Jake" Tiptree into a missing persons investigation. Jake's former Manhattan neighbor, Chip Hahn, had accompanied his boss, an obnoxious "True Crime" author, to Eastport to research her latest book. But shortly after enjoying one too many drinks at a local bar the young author, Carolyn Rathbone , disappears. Is her disappearance related to the unsolved murders of two local women or does Jake's friend Chip know more than he's saying? Things are about to take a very personal (and frightening) turn for Jake...

I've always felt that this series was a little edgier than the typical "cozy" and this installment has a dark, tense feel. There are fewer domestic details, the home repair tips are sparse and the familiar Eastport characters make only cameo appearances. However, in their place is a nicely written, fast-paced story that works as a stand-alone novel. The story maintains a nice suspense level that hooked me early on and kept me flipping pages way past my bedtime! At times this book was tough to put down and I when I wasn't reading I found myself thinking about the storyline.

One small complaint. There is a sequence towards the end of the book where Jake and Bella (her housekeeper/step mom) are getting into Jake's car which is parked in a somewhat remote location. The next time we see them they are hitching a ride...I'm assuming something happened to the car, but there wasn't any explanation (that I could find). The whole incident was rather odd and threw the timing of the story off a bit for me.

If you are new to the series then you are on to a good thing. I would recommend starting at the beginning with `Dead Cat Bounce' to get the lowdown on Jake and how she came to occupy her beloved old house in down east Maine.

No swearing and no sexual content; some violent scenes
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 17, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am also disappointed in the way the series has gone in these last two books. I really enjoyed having all the characters working out the mysteries and I always felt at home with them. The last two books have been very dark and it seemed as though she is backing away from the hometown and writing from different perspectives. I was getting very tired of reading about Chip in this book. I felt like I wanted to reach through the pages and punch him. I miss Jake and Ellie and everyone. They are the heart and soul of the series. I really hope that Sarah Graves goes back to the Eastport community that we have all grown to love and stay away from the gore. If I wanted that much terror and yuck, I would read Steven King.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Welsh Corgi fan on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I write this review with enormous regret. I have read every single one of the books in this series, and I have enjoyed most of them, especially the earlier ones. In my opinion, Ms Graves needs to take a different direction if she wants to keep her audience. I love books about Maine, and the home repair aspect has been very engaging in her series up to now. I also enjoyed the complex financial maneuvering, especially in the first three books. I am an admirer of Ms Graves, and I would love to see her once again return to the form she exhibited in the earlier books in the series.

I agree with many of the negative comments made in the reviews that have already been posted. I wanted to add a couple, though. While I started this book, I could not finish it, and I wanted to explain why.

First, Ms Graves' writing has never been her strong point, but this entry in her series was almost a pastiche of the weaknesses that have already appeared in her other books. The most obvious issue is her paragraphing. One sentence is not a paragraph. Most of her paragraphs are single sentences, sometimes even sentence fragments. This means that most of the page is covered not with print, but with the spaces generated by her paragraphing. This is distracting, but it also in this case made me wonder how long the book really was. Suspense should be conveyed by the words used, not how they appear on the page.

Second, I am really, really, tired of Jake (and her family) being beaten up, chased, threatened, blown up, and otherwise abused. Most detective story series have one entry in which the detective is a suspect and/or physically decimated in one way or another. In this series, however, Jake on the receiving end of someone's violence is a theme.
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