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Over Tumbled Graves Mass Market Paperback – February 5, 2002

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What is it about the Pacific Northwest that seems to attract mass murderers who prey on the most vulnerable of society's downtrodden? Had Spokane journalist Jess Walter made this tantalizing question the centerpiece of his debut thriller, he might have come up with something other than a relatively derivative retelling of an all-too-familiar plot. Instead, he takes the idea as well as the setting for his novel right from the 2000 headlines that trumpeted the arrest of serial killer Robert Yates for the murders of several young prostitutes in eastern Washington state.

Detective Caroline Mabry, still suffering the after-effects of a domestic violence incident that turned deadly, is assigned to investigate a killing spree that begins with the discovery of the mutilated body of first one and then several other prostitutes who were last seen on the stroll in a part of town apparently due for wholesale development. Partnered with her old flame Alan Dupree, a married detective whose sarcastic humor and iconoclastic ways are barely tolerated in the department, Caroline's investigation focuses on one Lenny Ryan, already sought in the seemingly unrelated murder of a young drug dealer. The two headline-grabbing FBI profilers brought into the case to help the beleaguered local police in their search for Ryan provide Walter with a subplot that slows down the narrative and adds little except a few cheap shots to the action. Mabry and Dupree will seem hauntingly familiar to readers of Ridley Pearson's popular cop thrillers starring Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews. Yet Walter is a solid writer with a good command of his craft, and if serial killers are your style, Over Tumbled Graves won't disappoint. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Shifting ably to fiction, true crime specialist Walter (In Contempt; Every Knee Shall Bow), turns out a strong, character-driven serial-killer thriller. In Spokane, Wash., a handful of homicide investigators watch helplessly as one prostitute after another is found murdered in a downtown park. Sgt. Alan Dupree, an old-style cop who eschews modern police investigative methods like criminal profiling, initially leads the team. As the so-called Southbank Killer's death toll rises, Dupree is replaced by Chris Spivey, an arrogant upstart with great academic credentials but no street savvy. Spivey brings in two nationally known serial-killer profilers, who waste precious time belittling each other personally and professionally while drawing up what are essentially boilerplate profiles. Spivey also recruits Det. Caroline Mabry, a hard-working investigator who manages to rise above squad-room politics and disagreements about how the case should be handled. Mabry is a complex character, suffering from a raft of personal problems as well as career doubts. She and Dupree finally uncover evidence that the whole investigation has been built on a faulty premise. Unlike many entries in the serial killer category, Walter's stays fresh by placing character development above shock value. His focus is on the human side of police work, not on the killer and his ghoulish behavior. (Feb.)Forecasts: A rave endorsement from James Patterson, who's not nearly as blurb-happy as is, say, Stephen King, could go a ways in making readers take notice of this fine first novel.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006103200X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061032004
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,370,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins (2012). He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, Playboy and other publications. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jim Kershner on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Jess Walter understands something that escapes many thriller writers: Character comes first. This first novel has a gritty and credible plot about a series of murders in Spokane, Wash., but Walter goes beyond the usual cliches of the genre by building his characters carefully and believably. Det. Caroline Mabry is an intriguing, complicated and wholly sympathetic escort into the world that Walters evokes, a dangerous world of prostitutes, johns and seedy bars. Because we care about her, and about her sometimes partner Alan Dupree, we care even more deeply about the case that consumes her. Walter also does an exceptional job of capturing the flavor of Spokane, a mid-sized Northwest city with a super-sized inferiority complex. The plot may invite comparisons to Spokane's real-life serial killer story, but Walter's story veers off in unexpected ways. An assured first effort by a fine writer.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Hayes on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter. He's written before as a reporter but this is his first novel. The lead character is a female detective and she's trying to catch a serial killer. Even though it sounds like the same old stuff, this one is different.
I get tired of reading books where the detective sifts through tons of evidence and only follows the good leads, as if they know in advance "who done it". This book has just enough bad leads, wrong conclusions and less than perfect cops to make it interesting.
I'm not sure who recommended I read this one, but I enjoyed it and am glad I gave it a try.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Diana Dawson on March 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for incredible writing, great character development and a plot that'll make you awaken at 3 a.m., wanting to crawl out of bed and read more then reach for Jess Walter's "Over Tumbled Graves". It's joined my list of all-time favorites.
Walter crafts an immensely satisfying mystery that tugs the reader through every twist and turn. You'll race through the pages, unable to put the book down until you reach its conclusion and then, when you do finish, you'll feel saddened that the joy ride has ended. Don't miss this one.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Over Tumbled Graves" is set on Spokane, Washington, a city which is noted for the waterfalls along the river that runs through it. The opening of the book is set at these falls when a young police detective, Caroline Marby, must chose between saving the life of the drug dealer or shooting the buyer who threw him into the falls. This choice, the choice between death and the preservation of life, is one of many threads that run through this book and make it a rich treat for the tired fan of the serial killer genre.
Caroline, with her friend and mentor Alan Dupree, become involved in a hunt for a killer who leaves his prostitute victims strangled and shot, grasping their last payment in their hands. The chain of evidence points to Caroline's escaped drug buyer, Lenny Ryan, as the killer but he remains somehow intangible, appearing and disappearing almost at will, with an agenda which never seems quite clear. As Caroline and Alan investigate, their present relationship as not quite lovers hovers between them. He is married and Caroline has a live-in. The tension between the two reflects the rapids that run through the city, as separation that can never be truely bridged.
As the body count mounts, Dupree, who is heading the investigation, is forced to call in FBI profilers. His sarcastic intolerance of these men and unwillingness to use modern investigative techniques puts him at odds with his superiors, and he is eventually removed from the case. This widens the division between him and Caroline as she must pick up many of the threads Dupree left hanging. Dupree, trying to deal with his frustration and a failing marriage, returns to the streets that he started on.
The book is also the tale of the conflict between the two profilers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Although I suppose this book will be classified as a "murder mystery" or "suspense" novel, Mr. Walter is an author who deserves to be widely read, for many reasons, including the fact that he includes plenty of insights about human character and life in general, some of which I've actually written in my journal as a reminder of what a truly gifted writer can do, no matter what genre he chooses.

About the subject matter: Set in Spokane, Washington the book focuses primarily on two people who are tracking a serial killer. The two detectives are Caroline Mabry and her partner Alan Dupree. The killer is going after prostitutes and his signature "calling card" is a stack of $20 bills which he leaves in each victim's hand. He is also drawn to Caroline (for reasons that become clear later in the book).

But that is just the bare outline of this complex, satisfying thriller.
Here is what makes it a standout:

1. The particular strengths and weaknesses of the main characters. Caroline Mabry and Alan Dupree aren't just partners but are also strongly drawn to one another, fighting both sexual and romantic tension. Dupree, however, is married and, as you might expect, that adds a special layer of guilt, ambivalence and excitment. They've dreamt of being together for a long time but as the author so deftly notes "Daydreams never have bad breath or forget important dates." As the novel goes on, the author reveals compromises each has made for the other, ones that might not have been made if they'd felt differently about each other.

2. This author goes beyond writing a "good" book but strives to be among the select few who rise to the top - and I think he succeeds.
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