4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
There's A Hole by James Sarjent is a mystery novella of under 20,000 words. Protagonist James Sarjent lives in a large house in the country with his wife (whom he calls "the Lady") and four daughters ("the Group"): Elinda (8), Noelle (6), Paige (4) and Luna (2). Their house sits on a hill with a big grassy pasture out the back. One day, the four girls are digging in this pasture when they discover buried human bones. Reporting this discovery to the police, they meet Sheriff Green, a big pleasant man James mentally nicknames "The Jolly Green Lawman". The Sheriff tells James about a mean old woman, Miss Landly, who previously lived alone in their house for many years. Having died relatively recently, the discovered bones are not hers. James decides to do some further investigation of his own.
Sarjent's prose is more considered and literary than that of some writers I have read. He seems like a real student of English literature, an impression reinforced by his references to Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and Lord Byron. There are many instances of elegant descriptive prose, such as: "This is a golden afternoon, golden air in golden light as the sun sinks to the horizon like a fiery ball." Such writing raised this story above the pack for me.
The author writes in the present tense, which I like for its sense of immediacy and engagement in the story. I felt like I was there in each moment with the characters, and not simply reading about these events after the fact. Humorous moments lighten the mood in many scenes, such as a breakfast James shares with the Sheriff in a local diner: "'Salt,' the Sheriff solemnly intones, 'is bad for you.' I look up and stop jiggling the salt shaker over my plate of scrambled eggs and bacon. What? The food police? Here in Lucy's Diner?"
In addition to the developing mystery of the discovered bones, there are plenty of cozy family scenes that highlight the antics of the four young daughters. These scenes really grounded the story for me, providing a sunny counterpoint of domesticity to the dark murder mystery unfolding. I enjoyed many examples of the delight James clearly takes in his lovely girls. Interestingly, he loves his children but cannot stand dogs, which adds an intriguing quirk to his personality.
The only downside to this story for me was a few minor errors, such as missing punctuation. I found less than ten in total, however, and overall I rate There's A Hole 4 out of 4 stars. The writing is elegant, almost poetic at times, the characters beautifully realistic, and the mystery of the discovered bones offers a tantalising hint of the gothic. I found it a highly enjoyable read from beginning to end. Fans of relatively low-key mystery stories will definitely enjoy this one. It has no obvious violence or coarse language, and as such is a definite breath of fresh air.
There's A Hole
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like joshfee77's review? Post a comment saying so!