Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
We want to preface this by saying that Grave Intervention is a phenomenal paranormal mystery novel that we absolutely fell in love with (in the end)! We had no idea that this innocuous-seeming book was going to get THIS good!
Grave Intervention follows Dr. Amir as he attempts to solve a series of strange occurrences in his hospital. These occurrences include ghost sightings, hearing voices, electrical disturbances, and even mysterious patient deaths. Dr. Amir becomes convinced that there's an supernatural or paranormal explanation for what he's seeing and experiencing, not only in the hospital but in his community. Slowly, he uncovers facts regarding a mysterious figure named Patrick Doyle, the first man to be legally executed in the town in 1854, whose grave and body were later desecrated, parts used for education or put on display. Amir comes to believe that the ghost of Patrick Doyle has unfinished business, and that it's up to him to make it right.
So, with all that said, here are a few negative thoughts that we wanted to get out of the way...
Part of what disarmed us in the beginning was that the first 50 pages or so were incredibly boring and mundane, mostly focused on Dr. Amir's medical drama as well as his wife, Camille, with a few strange occurrences sprinkled in. The problem with these two aspects of the novel are: 1. The medical drama, while seeming authentic as it was full of jargon and technical stuff, paled in comparison to the main plot, and 2. Camille seems to serve largely as a superfluous character who really doesn't need to be there. She almost seems like a total waste of page space. The plot is far better when she's absent from it. She reminded us of one of those human characters from a Kaiju movie (ex. Godzilla). You just want them to go away so we can get to the giant monsters doing stuff.
The hilarious thing is that the narrator feels the need to justify her existence by talking about how “fearless” and a perfect mother/wife she is. We even get a line about how lucky the protagonists are that she exists. Oh, yeah, she also has her own sub-plot which we totally spaced on that has something to do with a theater production. Thankfully, their daughter, Sami, is nowhere near as annoying or unnecessary, contributing to some of the book's tensest moments and being quite a charming, charismatic little character.
A third problem with the first quarter of this book is that it is full of far too many red-herrings, alternate explanations for the strange things going on. This really became confusing, even making us wonder what genre we were supposed to be reading. For instance, it got us thinking: Is this a medical drama about a doctor's everyday, mundane life? Is this a cozy detective mystery about an unsolved crime 150 years ago? Is this a story about an immigrant trying to live the American dream? It this a story about a guy, his wife, and his daughter trying to be a family? It this a story about doctors developing drug addictions and tripping out? Or is this a ghost story?
It's almost a tale of two books: a mundane first half about a guy's hospital work and family, and a thrilling second half about a guy's quest to hunt an ominous yet justifiable angry ghost.
Please believe us when we tell you this: if you survive the first half of this book, you're in for a ride!
When this book picks up and regains some focus, it really picks up! It becomes a full-blown paranormal thriller: a noble ghost hunt!
We ultimately loved and appreciated so much about this book. Patrick Doyle, despite being a sort of “villain” or “antagonist,” nonetheless got him sympathizing with him a little. It's fascinating to consider that he was a real life person who actually lived and died by hanging, but that so little is known about him. The fact that the author gave him a back story—an interesting one at that—is quite special!
Even some of our earlier complaints have equally valid arguments against them. For instance, Camille might be an annoying, uninteresting character to some readers, but she also provides motivation for Amir to want to solve this ghost debacle. She also shuttles Sami in and out of the story, something which gives us one of the best parts of the book when Sami goes missing. Also, the whole thing about Amir's immigrant status and his quest to live the American dream as a respected doctor in the USA actually plays well into the bigger picture as we learn that he has a lot in common with Patrick Doyle, an Irish immigrant who also wanted a better life.
Lastly, all the technical medical talk and jargon actually comes from a place of genuine passion and experience as Shira Shiloah is an actual MD!
This book had us on the edge of our seats at times. There were times when we were cheering for Doyle, then there were times when we were cheering against him. We kept wondering: What was it that this guy did that got him executed? Why is he so angry? Was he innocent or was he really a cold-blooded serial killer? Should we actually want him to get his peace or should we be cheering for him to go straight to hell?
This actually made us think rather deeply about various things. For example, we happened to read this around the time that Lori Daybell was convicted of murdering her two children. There are absolute MONSTERS like her out there. There have been monstrous criminals throughout our history. Could you imagine dealing with the ghost of one of those? Could you imagine dealing with the ghost of someone who did unspeakable things to men, women, and children?
So, we kept wondering: What did Doyle do? It's one of the great mysteries of the story, one which the author waits until the very last second—even after the main plot—to answer!
There are constant breadcrumbs and misdirection along the way. We were constantly worried that he might turn out to be some sort of pedophile or child killer, something that seemed implied by how much he apparently liked Sami. Could you really cheer for someone like that to gain peace?
Then, this book also got us thinking about capital and corporal punishment. What happens when someone is punished who was innocent all along? How cruel is too cruel? How harsh is too harsh? What really separates a crime like manslaughter from outright murder? Is it really just the intent to kill?
We've seen various people convicted of manslaughter on TV lately including various police officers whose actions led to the deaths of people. We're currently seeing a huge manslaughter case unfold in New York City now.
This book also made us think about the sanctity of human life and the human body. Should bodies become exhibitions? For example, the catacombs in Paris, France or the various Egyptian mummy exhibits. Bodies used for scientific research could also be included in that list of arguably awful things we do to corpses. When does it become desecration? When does it become immoral?
We thought about how ling-chi, the ancient Chinese method of execution involved the cutting off of various body parts to punish the victim in the next life as well as in this one (as Confucian culture suggests that the soul like the body will not be whole again in that state). Isn't it bad enough to suffer the grim fate of being brutally executed? Do they really need to suffer in the afterlife as well?
Then again, are there people who deserve to suffer both in this life and the next? Probably. Some serial-killers likely deserve that fate, or those who committed murder in especially heinous ways, against completely defenseless and innocent people.
So, where does Patrick Doyle fit on that spectrum? Does he deserve eternal pain and suffering? Or is there hope for redemption left even for him? Even after death?
This book's closing scenes are actually quite powerful and emotional.
This book as a whole really made us think.
Check it out on Amazon!