Writ On Water
by Melanie Jackson, paranormal (2007)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52704-2


What is it with all these books that I have been reading lately that aren't technically romance novels? Not that I'm complaining, especially if the story is interesting, but it gets repetitive for me to keep prefacing the review with the same old message. So, anyway, yes, Writ On Water is not really a romance story. The heroine Chloe Smith eventually has sex with Rory Patrick, but they barely interact enough to make any possibility of romance between them plausible. This story is actually a Gothic-style drama with mysteries and spooks and many, many tombstones.

Chloe is a photographer who works for Digital Memories. We aren't just talking about some person running around holding a camera here, we are talking about the whole shebang from camera to computer manipulation of the prints taken. Digital Memories is a highly sophisticated company that way, and it should be, because its niche specialty is high-quality photography of tombstones and mausoleums.

You see, rich people with old private cemeteries in their lands realize that many of the ornaments and tombstones in those lots are worth a lot of money today. Grave robbers are always looking for an opportunity to steal these near-priceless pieces. The best way to prove one's ownership of those pieces is by keeping a detailed collection of photographic records of the pieces on one's private burial grounds. This is where Digital Memories come in and Chloe is their top photographer.

When her boss' friend MacGregor Patrick requests for someone to come down to the Patrick holding in Riverview, Virginia, to start shooting photos of the Patrick tombstones and what not, Chloe is naturally the person sent to do the job. She soon realizes that the job may not be as straightforward as it seems to be. The Patricks are a rather odd bunch, obsessed with their privacy. Chloe is warned not to tell anyone about the Patricks' private burial grounds (one for family members, one for the slaves they used to own back in those days) because no one else is supposed to know of their existence. Chloe, whose grandmother is a witch, also has strange and disturbing dreams that may be related to her assignment. Has she somehow stumbled her way into an M Night Shaymalan movie?

I can easily see from the first page several problematic aspects of the story that can affect a reader's enjoyment of it. One, the dialogs between the characters are stilted and even archaic-sounding at times for a story that is supposed to take place in present day. Two, the pacing is very slow. Three, the hero is often rude just because he can get away with it. Four, the bad guys are cartoon villains right down to their nasty eating habits. But I don't care about all those potential problems, really, because I find myself really intrigued by the story. I am fascinated by the subject matter of tombstones and mausoleums because I've always been curious about spiritualism. I love reading and learning more about this business of using photographs to keep an inventory of all the pieces in one's private burial ground. I also love the atmosphere of this story - the whole Riverview estate is a dark, eerie, and beautiful secret garden of sorts where you can never tell what lurks beneath the brambles. This story gives me a few chills here and there, and I like that.

I am, however, disappointed by the rather mundane wrap-up of the story. In fact, I am dismayed to learn that the grand revelation isn't just something mundane after all that build-up about potential skeletons in the Patricks' closets, it's also something that I guessed a long time back.

Still, even if the pay-off is rather disappointing, I have to admit that Ms Jackson has me reeled into her story hook, line, and sinker so Writ On Water is actually more than fine with me.

Rating: 82


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