I read a lot. I love reading. And I read all kinds of book. Most people who read this blog already know this. Last Friday afternoon, a friend gave me seven books, all very different. By Sunday morning I had read three of them: Merciless by Diana Palmer (murder mystery and part of a series), The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin (historical fiction set in China close to mid eighth century, and debut novel for the author) and The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.
As I was reading Amanda Stevens’ The Restorer, I kept on asking myself, “Why am I reading this, it’s going to give me bloody nightmares,” and in fact I had nightmares Saturday night after I finished reading it. As you can tell, despite my reactions, I completed the book and am looking forward to the second instalment which is coming out in November. Though this book is a work of fiction, it taught me lessons and made me think. We have rules that we live by, whether they are rules imposed on us, or rules we made for ourselves. But what happens, when the rules become outdated? Or only some of them work? What do you do when you are given only some of the rules and there comes a point when you know there is a gap in your knowledge? What do you do then?
The protagonist is Amelia Gray whose profession is a cemetery restorer, and she has the ability to see ghosts. The Restorer starts off with Amelia at age nine helping her father, a caretaker for a few cemeteries, to rake leaves. She is enjoying this me-time with her father when she spies her first ghost. He father realizes what has happened and under his breath tells her not to look at the apparition. Of course any normal nine year old would want to know if her father can see it too, and he tells her yes. Children ask questions, that’s what they do, but the father wants her to work and not look at the ghost without any explanation.
He relents and outlines the rules for her to follow when she spots a ghost:
- Do not look at the ghosts because you do not want them to know that you can see them. What the dead want more than anything is to be a part of our world again. “They’re like parasites, drawn to our energy, feeding off our warmth. If they know you can see them, they’ll cling to you like blight….Don’t look at them, don’t speak to them, and don’t let them sense your fear.”
- Never stray too far from hallowed ground.
- Keep your distance from those who are haunted.
- Never, ever tempt fate
Of course Amelia wants to know if there are more rules and there are but her father doesn’t want to tell her yet. He tells her that she shouldn’t discuss what she has seen with her mother, it should be their secret.
The book comes back to present day where Amelia is having a flashback. She is now 27, an archaeologist specializing in restoring graveyards. She runs a blog called Digging Graves and became a minor celebrity after a video clip of an interview with her was posted on YouTube went viral. People thought they saw what they believed to be a ghost in the video. Amelia is in an upscale restaurant by herself celebrating a new contract to restore Oak Grove Cemetery, the graveyard associated with the prestigious Emerson University in Charleston. While still in the restaurant, Amelia spots a ghost she recognizes, a businessman who recently slaughtered his family then shot himself. The ghost thinks that she has spotted him, but Amelia recovers by looking beyond him and wave. He turns around and sees a waitress and leaves her.
The story takes off after she leaves the restaurant. Police detective, John Devlin approaches her because a body of someone recently killed, was discovered in the cemetery and the police are trying to figure out time of death. When graveyard restorers first start working on a new project, they do an extensive cleanup collecting garbage, doing a walk through and taking many photographs. Devlin wants to see the photographs Amelia took and the time she took them to narrow the victim’s time of death. The problem is there are two ghosts attached to Devlin, a little girl holding on to his legs and a beautiful woman beside him, and he is oblivious to the fact that he is haunted.
Amelia remembers Rule Number Three to stay away from the haunted, but has to do her civic duty and help the police, and her employer also expects her to cooperate – at 27, she really needs the present work contract so she has no other option but to cooperate, rule or no rule. When they walk toward her car to retrieve her briefcase, which has prints of some of the photos of the cemetery, Amelia notices that one of her car door is open and the window smashed. They discover that her briefcase has been stolen.
Devlin and Amelia go to the cemetery where the body was found to make sure that the police follow protocol and do not disturb graves. When she gets home she looks at the photos zeroing in on the ones where the victim was found, studying the headstone. She hears a sound and when Amelia looks out into her garden she sees Devlin’s ghost child. The following morning she goes out to the spot where the ghost child was and finds a ring, and Amelia wonders if a ghost could do that.
While she is in her garden, Devlin comes by, they go inside her house to talk about the murder and look at the photos. Amelia mentions that the gravestone was outward-facing, the significance of that. They also talk about the epitaph. She gives him a few books to read while she gets cleaned up. When Amelia returns, Devlin is fast asleep, and she feels him sucking away her energy, and that doesn’t happen when he is awake.
Before they indentify the body, a man approaches Amelia telling her who the dead woman was, explaining that he is a private investigator hired by the girl’s mother. He says that he doesn’t get along with Devlin and that’s why he didn’t go directly to the police detective. Amelia delivers the information and Devlin isn’t happy, but the identification turns out to be correct.
That’s the second time a murdered victims body is discovered in the cemetery, but the first time, 15 years ago, the information was suppressed by people with deep financial pockets. It turns out that both women were allowed to bleed out the same way a butcher would allow slaughtered animals to bleed out.
As an archaeologist, Amelia is good at ferreting out information, and discovers a lot including secret societies. When she and Devlin investigate where the first body was found inside a mausoleum, Amelia falls through and discovers a tunnel. Devlin goes outside to call for help on his cell phone and when he goes back inside, hears Amelia scream and jumps down 20 feet. They subsequently find another victim who had been dead for a while.
Later when Amanda sees a portion of the jacket that hadn’t deteriorated yet, she recognizes it as a jacket that one of the ghosts she saw was wearing. Through further investigation by talking to people and looking through a school yearbook, she discovers who the victim was, but how can she tell Devlin? She would have to reveal that she can see ghosts and she also doesn’t want to tell him that he is haunted by the ghosts of his wife and daughter who died tragically in a car accident.
Devlin is very haunted because he fought with his wife the day she died, and shortly before she died, she called him and when he saw on the phone display that it was her, he didn’t answer. She probably realized that she was going to die and wanted to say goodbye, so that haunts him.
The story unfolds and they find other bodies, and clues are left for Amelia in the comment section of her blog. The Restorer by Amanda Stevens is actually scary and disturbing. As would be expected with any murder mystery, the killer traps Amelia in the tunnel where he had committed other crimes – the one she discovered with Devlin. He is going to kill himself to get rid of ghost that is bound to him, but first he wants the ghost to bind itself to Amelia. The ghost is a former friend – who was very evil – they committed crimes together. The friend was a bad influence, and what one would call a “bad seed” so the killer tried to get rid of him by killing him but didn’t quite succeed – yes he killed him but he didn’t expect that the ghost would bind itself to him.
The killer discovered earlier that Amelia could see ghosts. Now in the tunnel he is trying to force her to look at the ghost so that it would bind itself to her. But her father’s Rule Number One is playing in her head and Amelia is not cooperating. He leaves her there, quite weak. There are lots of twists and turns in the story, and it turns out that the PI who had approached her was actually a ghost that assumed human form. In the end, he and Devlin’s daughter help to save her, by showing her to an exit. Before Amelia can escape, the killer reappears but is killed by Devlin. How did Devlin know where to look for her?
There are many unanswered questions in the book, but The Restorer is the first of three instalments. If you scare easily, this is not the book for you. Even though the book was scary and disturbing, I couldn’t put it down and needed to find out how it ended. Now for the lessons!
What do you do when you have a set of rules to follow that no longer work, or only some of them work? Do you find new rules, or keep hoping that the old rules will start to work again? What do you do when clearly you have incomplete information? How do you respond to the energy vampires in your life – people, things? These are situations we grapple with every day, and we have to find tangible ways to resolve them. I am not here to provide answers, just to raise questions more questions for you. These are potent lessons that you’ll learn from The Restorer by Amanda Stevens. Amelia Gray is very good at what she does, and it goes to show that whatever you do in life, you should strive to do it well by always doing your best. There are always lessons to learn, even from escape reading.
If you like reading about ghosts you will enjoy this book and it will leave you wanting for more, like the secret that Amanda’s mother is hiding, the other rules that her father didn’t tell her about, and of course you cannot help but wonder if the right time will ever come for Amanda and Devlin to act on their attraction. Will he ever be able to give up the ghosts of his wife and daughter? What metaphorical ghosts do you have in your life that haunt you?
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