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Over Tumbled Graves [Hardcover]

Jess Walter
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, Jan. 25 2001 --  
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Book Description

Jan. 25 2001
A Riverbank littered with bodies. A city under siege by crime-solving "experts." One young detective struggles to discover the truth ... and preserve her sanity.

Spokane, Washington: a bustling city split by hurtling white-water falls. During a routine drug bust, Detective Caroline Mabry finds herself on a narrow bridge over the falls, face-to-face with a brutal murderer named Lenny Ryan. Within hours, the body of a young prostitute is found nearby, dumped along the riverbank. Then another. And another. Soon Caroline and her cynical mentor Alan Dupree are thrown headlong into the search for a serial murderer police have nicknamed the Southbank Strangler. But while Caroline hunts a killer, he may also be hunting her.

What follows is a novel that turns the usual serial killer story on its head, that confronts America's burgeoning fascination with psychopathology and murder and stares it down. Through one long, bloody summer, Caroline and Dupree remain one step behind a madman who seems to be communicating by killing women and growing bolder with each new body. And when Spokane is overrun by headline-grabbing FBI profilers, statisticians, and TV producers, the detectives are forced to grapple with the ever hungrier serial murder industry. Before it's all over, Caroline and Dupree uncover some hard truths about their city, their profession, and each other. And Caroline finds herself back at the river, facing an evil far more alarming than the one she thought she was chasing.

Rich with the darkly muted colors of the Pacific Northwest skies, peopled with characters of extraordinary depth and dimension, Over Tumbled Graves marks the debut of a novelist with unusual insight into the human psyche.


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From Amazon

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

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.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding debut novel! Jan. 11 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Over Tumbled Graves" by Jess Walter is an exquisite, thought-provoking first novel.
It is a story of conflict, contrast and choice set amidst a serial killer investigation in Spokane.
A drug bust gone awry leads to the discovery of a string of hooker killings, all with an identical signature.
Spokane's Major Crime Unit's initial suspect is linked to two brutal non-serial murders as well. The more they learn about him, the more intangible he becomes.
The characters are complicated, believable, motivated---their internal dialogue and tensions fueling the plot. Alan Dupree's cynical, sarcastic, acidic wit is a highlight.
Competing "celebrity" profilers, the attendant media circus, condescending FBI "assistance" and a mid-investigation change of lead detectives distract and surround the investigation.
In the end, it is the Spokane MCU's detailed, tedious, credible investigative work ethic that corners the perp. That final answer is unexpected and complex.
A lack of cardboard stereotypes, superb misdirection and smoothly flowing action earn "Over Tumbled Graves" highly recommended status.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Strong writing May 20 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
While it has been mentioned in other reviews that the plot of this story is somewhat derivative, I would say that all stories work or don't work due to how the story is told. There are only 12 known plots anyway, right?
In this story the female heroine, Caroline Mabry, is dealing both with a serial killer that seems to have made a connection to her, personally, and with her unresolved feelings for her ex-partner. As the body count increases and the police attempts to solve the crime continue to fail, her emotions become more and more frazzled, leading her back to her former partner and mentor.
What I think is most important here is that Jess Walter can write: he develops believable characters, his language is years ahead of most mystery writers and he tackles themes of interest and meaning.
What's more, he does not shy away from the graphic. There's plenty of sex, drugs and violence in this novel, all describe vividly and without cliche. He knows when to describe a scene in detail and when it's more horrific to just describe the characters reaction to it.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
As far as plot goes, this book holds nothing new. But then, few serial killer novels do, because its very hard to come up with something really original within the genre. However, where this book excells is with its character development. As other reviewers have stated, the characters within this book are drawn very well, with great depth and nice touches of realism.
The plot is structured well, and the writing is good, but sometimes it feels slightly underdeveloped. The bits that are developed, are develoepd well, but there is a lot of material here which goes unheralded...He could have said a lot more, and made the plot much more affecting.
The sense of place is another strong factor...its described well, and adds to the novel.
Overall, this is a worthwhile read. The plot contains nothing to distinguish it from anything else out there, so on that score its decidedly average, but its a very well written book, with some very real and well-develoepd characters. (Although, sometimes, the plot suffers a tiny bit form this...)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Moments and Dark Humour March 13 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In Jess Walter's debut novel, it looks like a serial killer is systematically killing prostitutes in Spokane, Washington. It looks even more likely that the killer is the man that Caroline Mabry confronted but had to let get away during a drug bust gone bad.
Caroline Mabry and Alan Dupree are the two main protagonists and are both detectives with the Spokane Police Department. They share a past that is slowly revealed to us as they become more involved with the case, and this begins to affect the way they carry out their investigations.
This is Walter's debut novel and is a psychological thriller that starts out very well with an action packed and dramatic opening, snappy dialogue carrying plenty of humorous exchanges. But then the story gradually gets bogged down in the middle as the main characters all become very introspective. I had the feeling that we were in suspended animation for a while, waiting for someone to yell "action". However the pace does pick up again as things fall into place and set the scene for a thrilling and somewhat surprising ending.
A highlight of the book for me comes from the description of the two profilers whose dislike for each other provides plenty of funny scenes. Their egos and obvious distraction from the case while compiling data for their respective next books add a touch of comic farce to the story.
I found this an entertaining book that toyed with the emotions, dark enough to provide a substantial, thought-provoking thriller, yet light enough to provide plenty of amusing moments.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good 1st effort March 11 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Good characterization holds your interest long after the plot unravels.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good 1st effort March 11 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Good characterization holds your interest long after the plot unravels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awsome & Unpredictable Nov. 6 2001
Format:Hardcover
Jess Walter does a superior job in charater development. You not only "feel" these characters, you experience their emotions. And where they take you, through the investigative process, leads to a very unpredictable ending. This book also gives an insight to police detective's lives with humor, sarcasm, reality of 'police politics', and the empty, spent feeling a murder investigation has on the detectives and their families. It also reveals the shocking reality of the criminal mind. This is a winning novel and I can't wait for another from Jess Walter!
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