Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels: B-

From the back cover:
There are secrets buried at Maidenwood—dark secrets that span generations. Medical student Julie Newcomb, who once spent four miserable childhood years at this rundown Virginia plantation, would rather not resurrect ancient memories, or face her own fears.

Yet Julie cannot refuse her relatives’ plea that she spend her summer caring for the bedridden—but still malevolent—family matriarch. Reluctantly, Julie agrees, praying that life at Maidenwood will not be as bleak as before. From the first, though, Julie finds Maidenwood a haunted place, not merely echoing with grim reminders, but filled with dark secrets that will become part of her life even today.

Med student Julie isn’t thrilled when she’s asked to spend her summer caring for the cruel grandmother with whom she spent four dismal years—years that are strangely blank in her memory. She complies to spare her mother the thankless task, and ends up in the middle of a local mystery. Shortly before her arrival, the skeletons of a woman and infant were found on a road cutting through the family property, known as Maidenwood, and Julie and her family are besieged by reporters, archaeologists, and psychic anthropologists who are interested in the story.

Although I enjoyed reading Be Buried in the Rain, there are several things about the way that it’s written that puzzle me. For example, nothing really happens for about 80% of the book. It registers about a two on the suspense-o-meter. Oh, little things occur that do turn out to be important later, but mostly it’s Julie coping with her hateful grandmother, complaining (rather bitchily) about a co-helper’s cooking, caring for a stray dog, and bantering with and/or eventually rekindling a romance with her ex-boyfriend, an archaeologist who’s been given permission to dig at Maidenwood in an attempt to locate the burial site from which the skeletons were presumably exhumed. Things finally start to move near the end after Julie begins work on reconstructing the face of the adult skeleton based on the skull—apparently someone doesn’t want an identification to be made.

The ending leaves rather a lot to be desired, though. One question is not answered particularly well—how the kooky psychic manages to unearth a genuine archaeological find—and a couple of others not at all, including how the skeletons wound up in the middle of the road. Although the book is grounded in reality throughout, at the very end, Michaels throws in a random dollop of supernatural hijinks, with Julie believing she’s been in communion with the dead woman’s spirit and putting forth the theory that each year, the skeletons pop up again and have to be reburied by the party responsible for their deaths. I’d more easily buy this explanation if there were any notion of supernatural doings anywhere other than the final ten pages or so of the novel.

Still, though I have my complaints I still found Be Buried in the Rain to be reasonably entertaining and expect that I shall read more by Barbara Michaels in future.

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