The Grave is another in the Oxrun Station pseudo-series of books, and it's another one that I've read before. Like other books I've read before from what feels like eons ago, I remembered nothing about it. With The Hour of the Oxrun Dead, I stumbled across a scene I remembered, but The Grave may as well have been a new-to-me book. It's interesting to me that this is the case, since there are other books I haven't read in over thirty years, yet still remember clearly. It makes me realize that the books I don't remember simply aren't that memorable, even when I re-read them.
I think that's true of all five Grant books I've read this past month. The writing style is good, and I love the atmosphere of the stories, but when you look at the plots of the books, they simply don't stand out. I'll likely remember the feelings I had over the books, but I'm not sure if I'll remember any details, even a couple of years out from now. I'm not even sure I'll remember the stories based on the titles; I think I'll be more likely to remember them as The One with the Toy Store, or The One with the Book Store, or The One with the Guy Who Found Hard-to-Find Things. I might be able to recall The Grave by its title, since it's the first one in the series with a concrete title that relates to the events in the book, but how am I going to be able to remember whether the toy store owner was in The Last Call of Mourning or The Sound of Midnight? Hell, I'm not sure I could tell you right now, and I just finished those two within the last two weeks.
This is the first Grant book to feature a male point-of-view character, which is kind of interesting. In his previous novels, the women have been the ones with their insecurities reinforcing the horror, but now he gives those characteristics to a man. It's a flip in how Grant usually approaches the story, and I liked that there was a male "damsel in distress" this time around, at least to start evening things out.
Something else I noticed with this book was how dense some of Grant's main characters can be. It's easy to tell when reading the book when something just isn't right, and when the characters just keep on pushing in that direction, it's hard to remain too sympathetic to them. It would be different if there were some motivation for the characters to be forced in that direction -- to protect others or themselves -- and I suppose that has been the case if a couple of the books, but in the cases of the others, The Grave included, the protagonists seem willfully ignorant.
One thing I do like about the books, though, is that they're anachronistic. When I think of the ideas I have for horror stories, one of the hardest things to do is work around the convenience of things like cell phones and the Internet. It's hard to isolate characters in the modern world, but Grant's books were written before the ubiquity of those conveniences. Sure, they date the story -- not only do people have to wait through busy signals when they can even find a phone, but they also have to contend with a lack of answering machines -- but they work within the frame of the story. It does make me wonder if younger readers wouldn't have the patience for these stories, but anyone who remembers what it's like, say, to keep dialing the theater for the latest movies and times, hitting the redial button over and over until you finally get through the busy signal, will be able to relate.
Something else I liked about this book was how Grant wrapped up the ending of the previous book. So far, each Oxrun Station book has served as a brief coda to the previous book set in the town, with a line or paragraph telling you what happened with the main characters from that book, and so far, the codas have been happy. The protagonists and their love interests have married and are moving on with life as usual. Now, though, what we get as the coda to The Last Call of Mourning is a suspicious absence. Cyd's bookstore is still there, but there's no mention of Cyd, just that the elderly couple she hired to help at the store are now the owners. It suggests that things did not end well for Cyd, but the absence of detail regarding that ending is chilling. Like all good horror, the readers are left to fill in the blanks themselves, and when we do that, we fill them with our own personal horrors.
The Grave is a decent read, and probably worth reading for folks who already like his style. Other readers, though, might want to give this one a pass. Even if you're interested in trying one of Grant's books, this doesn't seem like the place to start.