Formats available: Trade paperback, ebook
Genre: Horror, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Date Released: October 15, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
Dr. Wyatt Case is never happier than when he’s walking the halls of his history museum. Playing wingman for his best friend at Gravedigger’s Tavern throws him way out of his comfort zone, but not as much as the eccentric man behind the bar, Ash Lucroix.
Ash is everything Wyatt doesn’t understand: exuberant, quirky, and elbow deep in a Gaslight lifestyle that weaves history into everyday life. He coordinates his suspenders with his tongue rings. Within hours, Wyatt and Ash are hooked.
But strange things are afoot at Gravedigger’s, and after a knock to the head, Ash starts seeing things that can’t be explained by old appliances or faulty wiring. Soon everyone at Gravedigger’s is wondering if they’re seeing ghosts, or just going crazy. The answer to that question could end more than just Wyatt and Ash’s fragile relationship—it might also end their lives.
The Gravedigger’s Brawl is a massive Halloween bash that takes place in Gravedigger’s Tavern. Where is that, you might ask? The historic district in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
So we have an eerily named bar in a historic preservation district on the spookiest night of the year. And did I mention that everyone who works in the bar has started seeing ghosts? That’s right, ghosts. Poltergeists aren’t just thumping the walls, they have started screwing with the electrical wiring. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Gravedigger’s Tavern doesn’t just have a weird name, it has some bad stuff in its history. It might be linked to the LaLaurie family in antebellum New Orleans. They were so evil, even their fellow slaveholders turned them in for their human experiments.
Richmond had its own version of the LaLauries, the Dubois family. It looks like they owned the land that Gravedigger’s sits on. One of the Dubois’ might still haunt the place, along with all of his victims.
The Gravedigger’s Brawl is a terrific, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, as in terrifying, ghost story. Spirits do haunt Gravedigger’s, and one man, Ash Lucroix, acquires the ability to see them, after a head injury.
Unfortunately for Ash, he’s not paranoid. One of them really is out to get him.
So is Wyatt Case, but that’s in a good way. The director of the historical society, although he might have been out of the closet for a long time, has an incredibly difficult time getting out of his shell. His academic reserve is a different problem all-together.
Opposites do attract. The academic introvert and the flair-expert, bartending extrovert with the gaslight aesthetic do take hesitant steps toward a relationship.
Meanwhile there are the ghosts. As more mysterious thumps and sparks manifest in the tavern, Wyatt starts researching the history of Gravedigger’s. (He’s a historian, it’s what he does). He finds paydirt. Or gravedirt. Amidst the urban legends, ghost tours and fanciful tales, he finds the Dubois family, and their misbegotten scion Vincent.
Vincent conducted human experiments on the land that is now Gravedigger’s. And every couple of decades since Vincent’s death, someone connected with that property has died, on the premises, of suicide. All under very mysterious circumstances.
And they’ve all looked very much like Ash Lucroix. So did Vincent Dubois. And it’s starting to seem a lot like Ash is next. Unless the bar burns down first.
Escape Rating A-: And a very chilling story this one is. The chills and thrills in this story come from the ghosts. The romance, although it exists, takes a back-seat to the ghost story.
I found the secondary story about saving Wyatt’s job at the Museum, and museum politics in general, to be hilarious and all-too-familiar. All non-profit institutions have some similarities. Wyatt’s co-worker Nash, especially his love of true-but-obscure facts, is laugh-out-loud funny.
This was a perfect Halloween read. It’s chilling and scary and terrifying. There are ghosts, and a fire, and a fight in the museum (in costume!). And in the end, what’s important gets saved.