Graven Images, the second installment in Eleanor Sullivan’s A Singular Village Mystery series, is a tightly woven tale of historical as well as mystery value. Sullivan’s ability to engulf readers in her characters and their environment is seemingly fluid and easily accomplished. Written in third-person, the tale quickly imbeds images in readers’ minds and builds the intended world around them. While Graven Images is solidly the second book in a series and does, at moments, refer back to the Cover Her Body, the first book in the series, readers will find that each work is just as sufficient as a standalone presence.
The characters are complex and real. Each, especially Adelaide, the hero of Sullivan’s tale, holds all the emotional levels and questioning nature of the everyday person. She is committed to learning, helping others, and her belief system, which is strengthened by her commitment. She is strong, focused, and caring. Sullivan creates a community that is founded in strict beliefs, yet the author does not allow the environment of her characters to staunch the storyline in the least. If anything, the setting enhances the story’s premise.
The plot is multifaceted and forthright, yet simple; though thoroughly instilled with the spark of humanity and all its faults, expectations, and imaginings. This keeps one closely glued to the pages of the work. Readers are enveloped by the surroundings and happenings of the Separatist community Sullivan portrays. So much so, that when the twist in the tale comes, one is fully invested and enthralled by the multi-layered tale.
Sullivan’s talent for drawling readers in and holding their attention throughout the work can be a double-edged sword for readers. On one hand, there is a feeling of elation that readers share when the hero meets her goal and rights the wrong; and on the other hand, readers find themselves wanting to continue being the proverbial fly on the wall so as not to miss a moment of life in the world the author has created.
Reviewed by Charlene Truxler for The Literary Review