Heather Graham’s The Dead Room is a smooth concoction that’s equal parts ghost story, mystery, thriller, and archeological tale. The author keeps enough balls in the air that the read is entertaining and event-driven as well as filled with characters that step off the page.
Lesley MacIntyre is an anthropologist with an uncanny knack for finding the unmarked graves of people that have died decades as well as hundreds of years ago. She’d always had some of this ability, but after the murder of her fiancé, Matt, that ability grew even stronger, 'til she ended up having to seek help to manage everything that was going on in her life.
I’m not a big believer in parapsychology and ghosts, but I do enjoy stories about things like that – as long as the author can make a case for them. Graham does so easily because she’s written several other books on those subjects. In fact, several of those novels are loosely interconnected, borrowing characters from earlier books as this one does. Ghosts stop just short of being too creepy and keep the story from become full-blown horror. Kind of a “gentle” scare for the reader.
And that balance between gentle scare and fear of the serial killer that Matt was tracking down in his reporter’s job is well played throughout the book. Of course, this wouldn’t be a romance novel if there weren’t some coincidences, like Matt’s lookalike cousin Joe tracking a woman connected with the murdered prostitutes Matt was investigating.
But Graham keeps those details mixed in well, and I didn’t have any problem swallowing them. Everything was connected so tightly that it couldn’t be anything but fiction, but it was a solid gem of a story.
I enjoyed the history Graham talks about in the book, and I even picked up a couple books on the archeological excavations going on in New York because the subject was so interesting. She puts out just enough detail to bring the reader’s imagination to full involvement, and the house is just seductive enough with history and ghosts to manifest a presence on the pages as well. Several times the scenes played out in my mind on familiar movie sets.
I really liked Joe’s character as well. He’s the solid kind of private investigator you want working for you on a big case. I liked his point of view and thought he brought a lot to the story as well.
Graham didn’t hold back on the love scenes either, and it was kind of interesting thinking that this was something the movie Ghost missed out on. At first I didn’t know how she was going to resolve the potential love triangle she’d set up in the pages. I was surprised at the ending, but I thought it worked out very well.