I bought my friend* Paula Graves’ novella, Murder on Lovers’ Lane, recently. It’s an “indie” novel, but Paula’s published multiple novels with Harlequin Intrigue. So what I’m saying here is that yes, this is an “indie” book, but Paula is a pro, and it’s obvious in several ways that you’re reading someone who isn’t just your ordinary “indie” writer.
Murder on Lovers’ Lane is partner romance—two cops thrown together because no one else really fits with them—of a type we’ve seen before, so Graves isn’t breaking any new ground here. In fact, one of the key audiences for Lovers’ Lane is the TV show Castle. As a big fan of Castle, I was looking forward to reading the book.
Cops Hannigan and Brody go back to college in order to find a serial killer who’s preying on amorous students. They find him—or he finds them—and hey, a new series is born. I’ve said Graves isn’t breaking new ground, but she doesn’t really need to. As long as she’s writing engaging characters (and she is) with logically built stories (and it’s mostly there), this can be a successful series.
A couple of things that make Graves’ work stand out: It’s clean. Even in the best “indie” books, there are typos or misspellings or just flat-out horrid syntax. There’s none of that here. The story comes out smooth and whole, and I think most readers’ complaints will be that the story feels a bit too short. I’d agree with that to an extent. I think Hannigan and Brody probably deserve a larger canvas on which to play.
I can see the comparisons to Castle, and I think they’re apt. You have two people here who adore one another, who are fighting against their attraction with everything they have, even though it’s a losing battle. There’s no doubt that Graves can tell an intriguing story, and I think the characters are worth exploring more from a reader’s standpoint.
My quibbles: I believe in Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker, who each believed in using no other word than “said” to carry dialogue. Other dialogue tags catch too much in my ear now. Graves is a gifted writer, and I’d love to see her be confident enough to let the dialogue stand on its own, without trying to help it out with overblown verbs.
Also. telling the reader that Brody has a “perfect, perfect face” a couple of times throughout the book didn’t do much for me, either.
But other than that? The novella is good, a light romance/suspense story that’s worth spending a little time with. I especially appreciated the creepy American lit professor and her banter with both main characters. At 99 cents right now, Murder on Lovers’ Lane is worth picking up. If I were the kind of guy who gave star ratings, I’d drop 3.5 out of 5 on this one. It’s enough to make me want to see what else Paula Graves has written.
*I want to point out that I bought my own copy of the book, and that regardless of whether I’m friends with an author, my reviews are 100 percent my opinion, whether for good or bad, and I try not to pull any punches.