Book Review – Not Quite Dead by Lyla Payne

First published, 2014

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows Graciela “Gracie” Harper: mid-twenties, newly single, and freshly returned to her childhood home of Heron Creek, South Carolina. After a horrible break-up, and just toying with the idea of alcoholism, Gracie stays with her grandfather, ostensibly to care for him in his twilight years but mostly to recover from her own broken heart. And where better to embark on an enterprise of wallowing and growth than in a town that remembers a rapscallion youth, surrounded by friends who no longer speak to her?

“‘So, you all know each other?’ Meredith Freedman asks the dumbest question in the history of dumb questions, but it breaks the tension which has pulled so tight my cheeks hurt.
“‘We grew up together, Meredith.’ It’s Melanie again. The only one of us that has regular access to her tongue.
“‘How lovely.’
“It’s all I can do not to snort.”
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However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as handsome young mayor, Beauregard Drayton can’t help but find himself drawn to Gracie’s clumsiness and quick wit, and when the ghost of pirate Anne Bonny starts appearing to Gracie, and someone starts leaving her threatening notes, who can she turn to but the young politician? But is somebody out to get Gracie? And will they stop at her?

I loved this book. The writing is strong and funny, the author’s voice is assured and the story is very clear. I think we all enjoy a storyline that subverts our expectations – where we’re sure we know who the baddie is and it turns out to be someone else entirely. Even though I was sure I knew who all the bad guys were in this novel, and I was right (high fives self), the way the story was told, all the little clues and the conclusion, were still very satisfying. I adored Gracie’s manner of speaking. There were many glorious turns of phrase that I plan to plunder for my day to day life, including:
“… doesn’t have me pegged for a girl with only one oar in the water…”
30% in, Chapter Eight, Not Quite Dead by Lyla Payne
“You look like ten miles of bad road.”
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“‘What?’ The word slides off my tongue in a breathless gasp that would make a porn star jealous.”
41% in, Chapter Eleven, Not Quite Dead by Lyla Payne

An incisive and well-constructed character, Gracie wasn’t just amusing, she was truly funny. More than once, I wished she was my friend, which is about as high a compliment as I can pay.

The descriptions of the characters were vivid without being intrusive; so clear, I could spot any of them on a passing bus:
“Mrs. Freedman’s lips are painted a bright, berry fuchsia and spread wide at the sight of us. The scent of her perfume tries its best to push me backward off the porch.”
5% in, Chapter Two, Not Quite Dead by Lyla Payne

A must read.