FOUR TOMBSTONES by Jennifer L. Hotes


From the "Josie Jameson Mystery" series, volume 1
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In Hotes’ (Cyborgia, 2015, etc.) YA mystery, a cemetery excursion by a group of Seattle teens unearths a few buried secrets.

Fifteen-year-old Josie Jameson’s plan for Halloween isn’t mere trick-or-treating. She and her lifelong pals, Casey, Seth, and Blaze, head to Lakefront Cemetery, the resting place of Josie’s late mom, Sarah. Josie believes that Halloween is an ideal night to “feel” her mom’s spirit. But a strange, gray cat leads her to an older tombstone with peculiar markings and no apparent name on it. Her friends also discover intriguing gravesites: Casey finds a child’s; Blaze, a priest’s; and Seth, a military veteran’s. Each teen feels compelled to learn more, and they receive some help from the cemetery caretaker, Grace. Later, Josie finds a letter from her mother, hidden in a picture frame, which the latter wrote after she received her cancer diagnosis. In it, Sarah purports to know magic and cryptically asks Josie to locate a special object and bury it next to her remains. The process of resolving the various mysteries ultimately leads to feuding among the friends. In this novel, Hotes includes plenty of spooky elements, including stories of witchcraft, crows that attack Josie, and, at one point, the appearance of Sarah’s ghostly figure. However, it’s the author’s attention to characterization that truly drives the tale. For example, it’s revealed that in the six years since Sarah’s death, Josie has repressed her grief while caring for her little brother, Owen, and their perpetually despondent father. Hotes offers meticulous and engrossing scenes showing how Josie gradually begins to mourn and how her friends sort out their own personal problems; for instance, Casey feels that her parents neglect her in favor of her athletic brother. As a result, the story is generally gloomy in tone, but it does have a few bright spots, including hints of a potential romance between Josie and one of her friends. There’s an effective twist near the end, and the supernatural elements leave room for expansion in future installments.

An engaging tale with shades of horror and well-drawn characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9987199-0-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Storm Mystery Press, LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
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