Saturday, May 19, 2012


William Doonan’s mystery novel, Grave Passage, is a trip worth taking. I had never been on a luxury cruise before I boarded the Contessa Voyager, but now I feel I’ve experienced it all: the pool and spa, the meals, the drinks, the gambling, the dances and romances—and the murder. Yes, luxury cruises can be hazardous to your health.
This novel is deliciously narrated by Henry Grave, who is helicoptered in to find out who offed a guest lecturer who had promised to reveal a secret that somebody else didn’t want revealed. Henry uncovers surprise after surprise, and each time he is surprised, he expresses his delight thus: “Well I’ll be god-damned.”
This guy has a voice that rings with surprises. Henry is an octogenarian, which makes him an unusual and original sleuth. As an old person, he’s entitled to his eccentricities. Because he’s a “little bit diabetic,” he eats all day long, except when he’s taking naps. He takes naps whenever he feels like it, wherever he feels like it, all over the ship. He never turns down a drink, be it Champagne or scotch or something orange with rum in it. He flirts with women of all ages: piano players, cocktail waitresses, trophy wives, TV stars, and women of a certain age who are traveling alone and on the prowl for adventure. Henry is a master of malapropisms. He forgets appointments.
But author William Doonan does not make fun of old people, and anyone who reads this book will admire Henry Grave for the bright and energetic detective that he is; and anyone who knows this fellow will want him as a friend. And perps beware. Henry Grave may be eccentric, but he gets the job done.
My only regret, having read this highly entertaining mystery? That George Burns isn’t alive to play Henry in the movie. That’s disappointing, and Henry would probably react thus:
Meanwhile, I’m nuts about Grave Passage, and you will be too.


  1. I just got Mediterranean Grave, and I can only assume it will be as good as this one. I'll be reading it soon.

  2. You're the greatest, John. Thanks for the wonderful review! I hope to have book three, Grave Indulgence, out this summer.

    William Doonan

  3. John,
    Great review!
    I read "Mediterranean Grave" and it was great. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. That darn Henry!

  4. Definitely agree. It's a fun read.

  5. You're right, it was a fun read. Thanks, John, and thanks William for writing the book. Grave is a great character.

  6. My Mom really dug this one because it was the same cruise she had done years ago. She just got done reading a Jessica Fletcher one about the other cruise she took - twice! To Sitka, and wonders if he'll do a Henry Grave for that one, too.

  7. I'm glad to know you all share my admiration for this novel, this sleuth, and this author!

  8. Thanks John and William, sounds "delicious"! Definitely on my list, but decided to start from the beginning. Just downloaded Mediterranean Grave.


  9. Great review. This is another on my TBR list. I must quicken my pace.

  10. John - I've been thinking about who should play Henry when the movie/TV show comes out. Here's my list in order:
    1. Gary Oldman (because he can do anything)
    2. Ed Asner
    3. Robin Williams

  11. Madeline and Theresa, I know you're going to love spending time with Henry Grave.

    Bill, consider Jack Nicholson. Morgan Freeman?

  12. Wow, those are great suggestions! I'll get on the phone this afternoon!

  13. Catching up on all the blogs of the week.

    What a great review! I've been on several cruises and I've gotta read Bill's book! Thanks for this, John.