Home / Books / Grave Expectations by Alice Bell | Book Review

Grave Expectations by Alice Bell | Book Review

Detective stories and murder mysteries remain as popular with readers as ever and so we constantly see new authors and books coming across featuring sleuths – professional and immature…Author Alice Bell published her first book in this arena last year called Grave Expectations.

Book Title : Grave Expectations
Author :
Published by : Corvus ( 2023)
# of Pages : 388 (Paperback) 333; 3477 KB (Kindle EBook)
# of Chapters : 20
Purchase Link(s) :

With its Dickensian derivative of a name and intriguing blurb, we found it appealing enough to add to our reading list, and here are our views on this book on behalf of Team Thinkerviews.

Book Cover:

Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.

Grave Expectations by Alice Bell | Book Cover

Grave Expectations by Alice Bell | Book Cover

The cover page of this book is following the latest minimalistic trend of using white, red and black colors to show line drawings and form the title details. It is an elegant cover page that would be attractive to some browsers.


Claire Hendrics has just arrived to a weekend job in an old English Manor house in the countryside – far removed from her London life. Here, she meets the family of the Wellington-Forges from Nana Forge to her teenage great-grandchild Alex Forge and the generation in between.

Its Nana Forge’s big birthday party, put together by her daughter Clementine Wellington-Forge, who is in charge of the estate and still wanting to run it like the old days. Her genial husband Hugh and her children Monty, Figgy, Basher and Tristan generally fall in line with Clementine’s plans.

Claire is here to provide some party entertainment as a medium. Now, Claire’s claim to the supernatural world is due to presence of Sophie. Her seventeen year old best friend who disappeared one day and then reappeared as ghost who has never left Claire since. Totally unprepared are Sophie and Claire though, when they come across a tragic ghost that seems to be haunting the library of the manor house.

When Nana Forge passes away, she asks Claire to resolve the mystery of this unidentifiable ghost. And so the inexperienced, barely competent duo of our detectives take on resolving this mystery. They find allies in ex-policeman basher and totally cool Alex, who are their chief source of information about the family, the last tragic party and the infamous events in general that take place at the Wellington-Forges..

As witting or unwittingly, Claire and Sophie tumble through secrets – their own and others’ – where will their search lead them?

Views and Reviews:

As you can see above, the book has all popular elements of a light-hearted take on the classic murder mysteries of early twentieth century, set in big manor houses and a cast of characters to provide plenty of suspects. The author has added a supernatural element by giving Claire the abilities to connect to Sophie and other ghosts. Although, almost comically, neither seems to consider asking direct questions to other ghosts until the end.

Instead, we journey with this duo as we learn their history, Claire’s social discomfiture and awkwardness with her peers, her struggle to be herself and live with herself without self-recrimination and judgements. All of this comes through the book naturally without many serious moments, but during the daily accounts of her life with Sophie, their chit-chat, arguments and occasional blowout.

In the battle between ingrained politeness and feeling uncomfortable with strangers, politeness won. In fairness, it had awkwardness on its side, to deliver a flanking attack.

Growing up has been hard for Claire with Sophie stuck being a teenager for ever. Claire lost connection with her family, spent a lost of her teenage year in therapy trying to explain the existence of Sophie and never really thought about getting a regular day job.

Basher and Alex are probably the first people she actually connects to in a long while and it helps that they also have their share of little and big problems. Basher was a cop, but left it all when the stress was taking too much toll on him and Alex is trying to figure out what they want to do in life..I loved how Basher can quote Shakespeare in daily life and Claire recognizes those references. It is such oddball moments that lead to friendships..

Repeatedly through the book, Claire and Alex refer to the noughties and the cultural references thereof, which for Alex clearly are a generation ago. They are a lot more at ease with being themselves, while Claire still struggles with the concepts of love and hurt like most of us:

A lifetime of watching reruns of sitcoms from the noughties has taught me that heterosexual couples aren’t supposed to like each other or have anything in common.

She’d always assumed, when people said ‘Love Hurts’, that they meant loving someone or something and not being able to have it, or losing it. She hadn’t thought they meant that being loved could hurt you.

Although, the setting of the murder is a country manor, Claire does not declare any great love for the countryside. She lives in London and loves the city for the anonymity and sense of protection that generates:

Rather than making her feel claustrophobic or self-conscious, all the people crushed into London made her feel the opposite: relaxed and confident. There were so many other people to look at that it was unlikely anyone would pay attention to her, even if they bothered to stop worrying whether or not someone was looking at them (which most people didn’t).

It is through Claire’s eyes that Alice Bell gives us a snapshot of this hulk of a metropolis:

She was of the considered opinion – having never lived anywhere else – that London was the greatest city in the world. She contained multitudes. In the sunshine, she glowed. Today was another grey day spattered with rain and whipped by wind, and the whole town felt grey and glowering, like the city was hunched over herself. Waiting. Biding her time. Claire always thought of London as a she.

So at the end of this funny adventurous tale, we have four characters that are lovable, fragile, hardly competent to be super-smart sleuths, but possessing enough stubbornness to carry on nevertheless. The author has left us enough of a mystery regarding Sophie’s disappearance that we can certainly expect a new book in the series in near future.


A hilarious murder mystery set in a great manor in English countryside featuring a cast of suspects and a literally spooky detective team…You’ll enjoy this book if you love murder mysteries with a bit of humor…

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 7 stars out of 10.

Quick Purchase Links:

Over To You:

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