Graves, Sarah 1951-

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GRAVES, Sarah 1951-


Born 1951; married; husband's name John (a musician). Hobbies and other interests: Home renovation.


Home—Eastport, ME. Agent—c/o Bantam Books, New York, NY 10001. E-mail—[email protected].


Respiratory therapist at Yale-New Haven Hospital; home renovator and mystery writer.



The Dead Cat Bounce, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 1997.

Triple Witch, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 1999.

Wicked Fix, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2000.

Repair to Her Grave, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2001.

Wreck the Halls, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2001.

Unhinged, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2003.

Mallets Aforethought, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2004.

Tool & Die, Bantam Books (New York), NY), 2005.


Sarah Graves has parlayed her love of home renovation into a successful series of mystery novels known under the clever name "Home Repair Is Homicide." These titles have been published at a steady pace since 1997 when The Dead Cat Bounce, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed a "polished debut" for its "intricate plot, well-drawn characters," and "humor," made its debut. The novels star sleuth-with-tool-belt Jacobia Tiptree and are set in the seaside village of Eastport, Maine, where Graves and her musician husband John are in the process of renovating an 1823 Federal-style home. "The repairs in the [books] tend to mirror what I am doing," Graves told Boston Globe reporter Letitia Baldwin. "Taking something apart—an old doorknob mechanism or five layers of wallpaper—is like doing the detective work," she added. "It reveals the nuts and bolts of a situation. Once you've got the information, putting whatever it is back together again is like recreating the original incident."

Graves hails originally from a small town in Wisconsin, where she "spent a lot of time either outdoors, in the library, or in the kitchen," she recalled in a Mystery Reader interview. "Both of my parents and my grandmother on my mother's side were good cooks, and they were all enthusiastic readers. No one ever forced me to eat anything I didn't like, or stopped me from reading anything I did like, or put any limits on my exploring the fairly wild natural world that was rural Wisconsin. All of which I would say contributed pretty extensively to the Sarah Graves of today." One of Graves's most happy discoveries was a cache of mystery novels an aunt had left in an otherwise completely empty attic room. "I do think that's where it all started, in that attic room," Graves added.

Several critics found the combination of small-town life, home repair, and a mystery to be a winning combination. Among them number Baldwin, who wrote, "The novels are as well crafted as the household projects are carried out," and two Publishers Weekly reviewers, who termed Triple Witch an "enjoyable read," and Wicked Fix, "good entertainment." Graves's 2001 title, Wreck the Halls, was the first title in the series to appear in hardcover and the only one to be set at Christmas time. While USA Today contributor Katy Kelly judged the plot to be too disjointed, resulting in a "Wreck," a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Graves's characters as "very human creations," and Booklist critic Jenny McLarin described the novel overall as an "entertaining cozy."

In 2002 Graves added Unhinged to her "first-rate series," as McLarin termed it. In this title Jacobi, nicknamed Jake, falls from a ladder while cleaning the gutters, yet manages to solve the murder of her noisy neighbor. Like its predecessors, this title includes several subplots, creating what a Kirkus Reviews writer called a "show that's entertaining, however loud and flashy." Upon reading the seventh title, Mallets Aforethought, McLarin concluded, "Graves' stories seem to grow better with the passing of time."



Booklist, November 15, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of Wreck the Halls, pp. 556-557; December 1, 2002, Jenny McLarin, review of Unhinged, p. 649; January 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Mallets Aforethought, p. 832.

Boston Globe, June 17, 2004, Letitia Baldwin, "Mysteries of Home Repair Maine Writer's 1823 Fixer-upper Is a Main Character in Her Novels," p. H1.

Denver Post, December 2, 2001, Tom and Enid Schantz, "Thanksgiving Chill Takes a Warmer Turn," review of Wreck the Halls, p. D2.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Unhinged, p. 1571; December 15, 2003, review of Mallets Aforethought, p. 1426.

Library Journal, December, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Wreck the Halls, p. 178; December, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Unhinged, p. 182; February 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Mallets Aforethought, p. 128.

Publishers Weekly, July 20, 1998, review of The Dead Cat Bounce, p. 215; May 17, 1999, review of Triple Witch, p. 76; March 6, 2000, review of Wicked Fix, p. 89; October 15, 2001, review of Wreck the Halls, p. 48; December 16, 2002, review of Unhinged, p. 49; December 22, 2003, review of Mallets Aforethought, p. 40.

USA Today, December 20, 2001, Katy Kelly, "It's Not Quite on the Head," review of Wreck the Halls, p. D6; February 21, 2003, Craig Wilson, "Whodunit? Home Renovator Sarah Graves," p. D7.


Mystery Reader Web site, (September 27, 2004), Cathy Sova, "New Faces 6: Sarah Graves."*