"She talks to dead people. Then she solves their murders."

Of Grave Concern:: An Ophelia Wylde Paranormal Mystery - Max McCoy

I liked the first several paragraphs.  


Then I didn't like it. for several chapters.  The main character seemed rude and unpleasant.  I took a break until I had more patience; and then I found out that there are underlying factors for her manners.  She has reasons to be tense and irritable.


pretty soon, I found myself quite liking Ophelia, a woman on the run and stuck in Dodge City on her way to points west.  My favorite character is Eddie, the Raven, who quotes Poe at every opportunity, and earns the Corvid Good Citizens Award when he saves Ophelia from a fate worse than death.



so, this is why I didn't quite like Ophelia at first.  She is disdainful of the place and the people, and doesn't bother to hide it.  In responding to a comment made by a fellow traveller, she says, "Why, bless your rustic soul."  That just seems uncalled for.


she climbs the hill to the cemetery and these are her thoughts as she looks down on the town:


"From up on Boot Hill, it was easy to imagine the cowboys and the soldiers and the townspeople as animals. The good citizens and the soldiers were mostly herd animals, I decided, but the cowboys ran in packs, like wolves. The most unpredictable and therefore most dangerous of the cowboy animals were the loners— the lobos."

[I don't even know how to process that.]


but after that, I guess she got her feet back under her, and her sense of humor began to shine through.  After over-indulging in the local beverage, she paid a visit to the doctor, who offered this advice:  


" . . . the old- timers say the best cure for the common hangover is to brew up some tea using rabbit pellets,” Doc McCarty said, lifting his glasses so he could read the label on a small tin he had taken from the shelf. “You could try some rabbit-drop tea, if you like.”

“The thought makes me want to hurt you.”


 After she makes a comment about the primitive structures prevalent in the city --


You have the best rooms in the city.”

“That is sad,” I said. “The wind blows the dust through the walls.”


And the conversation that takes place at the attorney's --


There wasn’t room to sit, because every flat surface was piled with something— legal documents, law books, dirty plates. Even the chairs had bundles of the Times and other newspapers on them.

“How do you live like this?”

“Sorry, I didn’t know I was going to have guests.”

“Where are your books?”

“The law books are in the corner.”

“No, I mean literature.”

“I read newspapers.”

“But not Twain or Dickens.”

“I only read factual material.”

“There’s more fiction in just one edition of the Kansas City Times than in all of Thackeray,” I said, aiming at sounding droll but grazing boorish, instead.


Ophelia Wylde is a spiritualist with her own set of ethics.  She helps people, but she doesn't have a problem cheating those whose own morals are in question.  She seems to think it's karma.  

I like the next three conversations because it shows that, while she may have a problem with religion, she still has a heightened sense of spirituality. --


" . . . it’s curious that a woman who professes to demonstrate spirit communication seems skeptical of religious faith. Don’t you believe, Miss Wylde?”

“I believed in a lot of things, Doc,” I said, “when I was a child. But now, I have given up childish things.”

“That’s good,” he said. “Using the Bible to support your disbelief. Clever."


And here, one of her clients has found a reason to find fault with her performance regarding his dead sister. --

“You maybe isn’t a whore, but you is for damn sure a witch. I seen you at the opera house once and twice and knows you is a witch, and the Book says not to suffer a witch to live.”


“But it also says a lot of other stuff,” I pleaded. “Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to go and sin no more, to love thy neighbor as thyself. Don’t just take the part that justifies murdering somebody.”


and later, they have to exhume the body of a murdered girl in order to obtain some evidence. --

“All right, boys. Seal her up and get her back into the ground.”

“Wait,” I said.

“For what?” Calder asked.

“We should say something.”

“She’s right,” McCarty said.

“Go ahead,” Calder said to me.

“I’m no preacher.”

“You’re the closest thing we’ve got,” McCarty said.

“All right.” I told the men to doff their hats, although Calder wasn’t wearing a hat, as usual. Then I cleared my throat and bowed my head.

“I wish you could hear me,” I said. “Because if you could, I’d tell you that you aren’t forgotten, that even if we don’t know your name, there are good people here who care about what happened to you. We’re going to try to help you find some rest.”


And this is my favorite scene in the whole book.  It might not make you cry but me, I did.  Ophelia is riding to her death and has a hard task to accomplish first: 


"The problem with ravens and other corvids is that once they imprint on a person, it’s for life. If given to another owner, they become deeply melancholic and often will themselves dead. I had raised Eddie since he was just a baby. If I left him for someone else to take care of, even somebody as kind as Doc McCarty, odds were that Eddie would soon become miserable and would eventually die.


So there was only one thing to do. I opened the cage and reached my hand in. Eddie rubbed his beak against my fingers, the membrane over his eyes half closing in contentment. Then I took him out of the cage and held him for a moment on my forearm, stroking his gleaming blue-black feathers.

“I’m sorry, Eddie,” I said. “My hand is played out and I’m about to jump off the edge of the world for God knows where. I don’t expect to come back, considering the amount of weaponry Calder was preparing, and from the tone of his voice. . . It’s better to die trying than to just sit and waste away into somebody else, don’t you think?”

He cocked his head. “I know. It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry.” I started to cry. “At least this way, you’ll have a chance,” I said.

“Ravens are smart, and you’re the smartest of them all. Why, if you could learn the things I taught you, you will do just fine on your own. But you’ll have to look out for hawks and eagles, and probably hang around town so you can eat scraps the restaurants throw out their back doors.”

I wiped my eyes with the back of my free hand. “And who knows?” I told him. “Maybe I will come back, and you’ll still be here in Dodge, and you’ll find me and we’ll be like we always were— inseparable. What do you think, baby? We’ll meet again, right?”


Now I was truly bawling. I carried him to the open window. “Go on,” I said. He didn’t budge. “Take off,” I said. “You’re free.” He swiveled his head to look at me with first one eye, and then the other.

“Fly, damn it!” I shoved my arm out the window and shook it, and Eddie squawked and snarled and dug his claws into my arm, trying to hang on. Then I shook harder, and Eddie flew off. He swung out low over North Front, flapped over the train depot, and then turned sharply, coming back to the hotel.

I slammed the window shut."



There's still time to read the second in the series before Halloween is over.  This was a Kindle Unlimited, but depending how the next book plays out, I may end up adding it to my own library.