Deeper Than The Grave is the fourth in Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph series, set in and around Atlanta. Tai is taking over a gun shop she has inherited from her uncle, which also specializes in equipment for Civil War re-enactors. When a tornado blasts through the Kennesaw Mountain Battleground wrecking a family tomb nearby and scattering bones and relics, Tai is asked to help in the search for its missing contents. In the process, she finds a skull, but it turns out it is not the skull they are looking for. It is not long before Tai and her boyfriend Trey, a security professional, are involved in defending her deceased uncle from possible murder charges in a complex mystery with roots going all the way back to the Civil War.
Tai and Trey are not quite a matched pair. She is the kind of take-charge woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it. She acts impulsively, and damn the consequences. Trey is a careful planner. He is meticulous about what he does, and he does everything by the book. He is suffering from an emotional problem which is presumably related to events from one of the earlier volumes in the series. These events are referred to constantly but, to the chagrin of those of us who haven’t read the earlier tomes, never really explained.
He is wound quite tightly, she “loosie goosie.” The contrast is apparent from the very first chapter, when they are target shooting and after Trey complains about her form, Tai hits the target in the groin. Trey gets upset; she should be aiming for center mass. Tai is not the stereotyped shy retiring Southern belle. Boyfriend or not, she doesn’t take anything from anyone. She is the kind of character that can carry a series.
Whittle makes good use of her setting. Her characters move from Stone Mountain to Buckhead, from the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library to the High Museum of Art. They wear their Armani suits and sexy Perla underwear. They drive their Ferraris and Camaros on I-75, I-85 and the connector. It is a South where the genealogy librarian at the Public Library is black, but the old dynastic families still rule the roost. It is the modern South, but the modern South is still the South. And when you get right down to it, with its background in the Civil War this is the kind of story that demands a setting in the modern South, making the point that although there have been changes, there are still changes to be made.
If you come to Deeper Than The Grave without having visited Tai’s earlier adventures, it may well send you to your local bookstore in search of what you’ve been missing. At the very least, you will want to find out what happened to Trey three years earlier on February 9 – a reference which is, I presume, explained somewhere.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00Q4EP61O]