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Paupers' Graves Paperback – July 25, 2016
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The cemetery on which this story is based is real and I Googled it. (Rock Cemetery, Nottingham, for those that want a look.) What a place to set a story! I could easily picture what Katherine's team, (Katya and Alex), were going through, after getting a look at the real location. Imagine a place where all the bodies/bones were just tossed in together, with only small markers to give a general idea of where a person was located.
The characters in this story were where the action lived. What happened to each of them had a lot to do with who they were and their outlook on the world. This tale also drew some parallels between the past and present. Maybe we no longer toss the bones of the poor into pits or clapboard boxes, but has the world really changed that much since those days? Have we eliminated the problems of homelessness, drug addiction and/or mental illness? With all of our science and knowledge, have we brought about the changes that such wisdom should bring? Pauper's Graves makes the reader think about that and I'm usually a fan of books that me think.
I did have a few issues, though-at one point Katherine's name was used instead of Katya's, and there was one point where Alex drew in her breath, even though he's a guy. For these couple of items, I did deduct one star.
To sum up, this is a beauty of an atmospheric, dark fiction story that puts the reader right into the thick of things. In the dark and the fog, the dead insist that their stories be told. Are you brave enough to hear them?
Katherine is a woman who likes to think of herself as above others, she looks down her nose at those less fortunate than her, but if truth be told she once walked in their shoes. Katherine along with 2 interns Alex and Katya and groundskeeper Murphy have been given the task of cleaning up the paupers’ graves in the Anglican cemetery and setting up a memorial as a remembrance to those buried there. Of course, Katherine finds the task distasteful and wants to slap together a generalization of just 3 of the names found on the mass burial markers. After all, why would anyone want to know of the poverty or debauchery that led these souls to be buried here?
Ah, but all this dredging up of past lives bring to life more than they bargained for. The souls of those buried together so long ago haven’t been able to rest easy. Entering the world of the surreal, vestiges of a forgotten past begin to surface. Memories soon become entangled and no longer can one be sure of what’s real. Soon, Katherine and her little group find themselves walking a fine line between the living and the dead.
James Everington has given us a brilliantly done novella that is probably my favorite read so far this year. The subtle buildup and surprising end all lend to an excellent story.