Gravedigger (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery #6)

Title: Gravedigger (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery #6)
Author: Joseph Hansen
Publisher: Open Road Media
Amazon: Buy Link Gravedigger
Genre: Mid-Century Mystery
Length: Novel (173 print pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5


A guest review by Tj

Summary Review: The Brandstetter series just gets better and better. Once I started, I could not put this book down.

The Blurb: Serenity ran away from home when her father was convicted of bribery. For two years, she drifted around the American Southwest, finally finding refuge in the arms of Azrael, a charismatic cult leader whose religion was founded upon blood. Long after Serenity’s disappearance, the police find a mass grave containing six dead girls on Azrael’s property. Thinking his daughter has been murdered, Serenity’s father claims her life insurance, and promptly disappears. Now it’s Dave Brandstetter’s problem.

An insurance investigator with a keen eye and a skeptical mind, Dave is no stranger to savagery. But his trip to the high-priced suburbs of Los Angeles will teach him something new about the depths of human cruelty—and Azrael’s mass grave is only the beginning.

A Dave Brandstetter Mystery Series

The Review: A big part of loving somebody requires you to give them your trust. Trust that they will return your love and trust that they will honor it by respecting you. And because love and trust are so interconnected, it is often difficult when that trust is betrayed, as it often seems to diminish the love that was given. This issue of trust both given and lost flows throughout Joseph Hansen’s 6th Brandstetter mystery Gravediggers. Trust is given to Dave’s new love and at the same time seemingly lost in another relationship in Dave’s life. And as Mr Hansen has done in previous books this theme is also explored in the case that Dave’s working as well, where trust is both given to unworthy recipients and shattered by deception.

Dave’s latest job seems simple: prove that the insured person is still alive, which is basically find the missing person, but quickly becomes more complicated as more people pivotal to the case seem to have disappeared as well. Dave struggles to find answers as once again people lie and withhold information, but as we’ve seen in the previous books, he does not give up easily, even when his own safety is at risk. Dave seems to go out on a lot of dangerous limbs in this story, prompting Lieutenant Salazar, his police contact, to question Dave’s mental capacity:

“Sometimes you don’t act quite bright. We try to teach the public to give the man with the gun the money and keep your life. It’s only twenty-five thousand dollars, Dave. Is Banner Life Insurance going broke if it has to pay for once? Would that be worth dying for?” But as much as Dave probably agrees, he can’t let this go.

As good as the mystery in Gravedigger was, my favorite part by far was the character development. In the previous books the mystery took up the lion’s share of the page time – although Hansen doled out bits and pieces about Dave throughout the stories. In Gravedigger however, Hansen spent a considerable amount of time showing us more of Dave’s personal life. Dave has a new, quite young (go Dave!) lover who makes him very happy and seems to bring out the best in Dave.

There are some wonderful bits with Dave and his new love interest Cecil. At one point Cecil is offered a job which Dave clearly doesn’t want him take, because it will cut into their time together – pretty sweet for a tough guy. When Cecil sees that Dave is itching to have it out with the person who arranged the job, Cecil says;

“Don’t spoil it. It will be a good job, the pay will be great, it will make me feel righteous, like I was somebody fit for you to love.” Dave responds, You were that before. I wish they’d go the hell home so I could get you to bed and talk some sense into you.”

The prose is, of course, first rate as has been the case in all the previous works. Describing a run down town, Hansen wrote:

“Now and then an oil pump cast a nodding shadow in the long, late afternoon winter sunlight. Where people lived, existed, were clutches of shacks broken-windowed, porches falling off, roof gaps showing fishbones of gray rafter.” 

It’s wonderful how Hansen uses imagery – look at what he calls to mind with just a few well thought out phrases: “nodding shadows” and “fishbones of gray rafters”.

As I said in the summary, this book hooked me from the start – I read it in two nights. It builds slowly at first, but then grabs hold and I found myself reading faster and faster as it gets very exciting by the last scene. It’s hard to believe, but each book seems better than the previous one as I read through this series. Gravedigger is highly recommended.



  • This was a gripping story, and I thought the ending quite bloodthirsty, compared to the earlier books in the series.

    I love the developing relationship between Dave and Cecil.

    I should start re-reading the series, so that I can remember details better. My memory’s becoming unreliable. 🙁

    • Oh I agree Gaye. The ending was especially gripping, although more gritty than the previous books. But it made for an exciting read.
      You’re doing great remembering. You comments are spot on. But I’m sure you’d enjoy another go at these books!

    • Aww, thanks Wave. That’s very kind of you to say. I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews. The books are really great which makes reviewing them a pleasure!


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