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Spotlight on: Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) by Jeff Strand

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Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) by Jeff Strand Jeff Strand, Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) (An Andrew Mayhem Thriller)

A week after a misguided stint as an amateur (unlicensed) private investigator (videotaping an adulterous couple in the act) doesn't work out, Andrew Mayhem, who is in immediate financial need due to some bad decisions, finds himself about to make another one. The price: $20,000. The job: To simply retrieve a key. No big deal, right? Well, this key is a little hard to access -- someone else has it, and he's buried in a pine box in a shallow grave in the park.

What happens with the key search sends Andrew off on another unexpected investigation as he and his best friend, Roger, try to find out who was really behind everything. Their search takes them to the home-made horror film experts at Ghoulish Delights and puts Andrew squarely in the clutches of The Apparition in his search for "the killer."

This is no ordinary killer, but one who has a maliciously creative streak, leaving mysterious presents on the hood of Andrew's car, and sending Andrew all over town on a scavenger hunt, with each clue telling him what to do next. Meanwhile, Andrew (who tries to be a good husband and father in spite of his ineptitude at most other things), is also trying to take care of his two children while his wife recovers from a broken leg in the hospital. Could life get any more difficult for a guy who's just trying to make ends meet without having to get a real job?

Author Jeff Strand is perhaps best known for his skill at balancing humorous and horrific elements in one tale (although his novel Pressure, with its high-intensity mainstream-thriller plot and characters, may change that for good if it gets the audience it deserves). Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) is part of the reason for that reputation, and it showcases his rare talent wonderfully. [For more examples of his peculiar ability, also look for the short-story chapbooks Two Twisted Nuts (with Nick Cato) and Socially Awkward Moments with an Aspiring Lunatic.]

Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) is a pure joy of a novel. I finished it in a day and a half. Although Andrew has little confidence in his own abilities ("I suck as a detective" is his mantra), he has a terrific sense of humor about it all. The consistent thread of sarcasm is what carried me so quickly through the book's 200 pages. Every character seems to be a smartass, Andrew's daughter Theresa perhaps most of all.

There is a chuckle on every page of Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary), even the pages that will turn your stomach with their gruesome descriptions, making Strand the Terry Pratchett of horror (call it "humorror" -- or don't). Strand is not only funny but obviously very intelligent. (How intelligent? He even manages to slip in a sideways reference to his children's book, Elrod McBugle on the Loose. How's that for cross-merchandising in narrative form?)

I loved every page of Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary). I was always surprised by the plot's twists and turns, could never predict where Strand's narrative was going to take me next, and was a willing participant the whole way. (Just to let you know what kind of sick freak I am, my favorite part was the puppet show.) I assumed that the momentum would eventually die out, but was pleasantly surprised that it never did; Even when things got a little on the improbable side near the end, it was all just part of the fun. In fact, there was enough leftover momentum to carry me right to the bookshelf and the second novel in the series, Single White Psychopath Seeks Same.

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