Grave Expectations By Sandra Gardner: Review/Giveaway

Mar 16, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa

This week we have a review of Grave Expectations by Sandra Gardner. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Grave Expectations and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Ghosts? Sure, but what if it’s your mother?

Marabella Vinegar (Thank you, Ellis Island!) works at Chelsea College in the PR department, and due to a life time of challenges, has been visiting a holistic therapist for the past eight years, and after this morning, she’ll have some real issues to discuss. Her mother has arrived. So, what’s the big deal? For some of us that just might be an inconvenience dredging up “better left in the past” mother/daughter conflicts, however, Marabella’s mother passed away a week ago. But, here she is in the satin and lace dress in which she was buried looking a bit transparent and sounding, acting, and passing critiques just as frustratingly normal. Marabella’s mother has returned from the beyond answering the “Why are you here?” question with “Very shortly, you’re going to need me, sweetheart.” It’s bittersweet to think a thirty-nine-year-old would need their mother’s help, but having a mother/ghost eavesdropping, reading minds, and wafting through barriers just might come in handy…real handy, especially when Marabella discovers her therapist murdered and, because she found the body, closely scrutinized by local detectives. Yes, she’s going to need her mother!

mysteryOriginally titled Mother, Murder, and Me (2012), the first book in the series, Dead Shrinks Don’t Talk (2018), gets 5/5 Ghosty Stars. Its quirky realism, well-written style, and compelling plot has made me an eager fan for more! Written from Marabella’s “I” perspective, the murder mystery begins with a unique paranormal twist adding its own kind of drama, then very engaging twists and turns and some personal peril for Marabella. But, that’s not the only plot line to enjoy. The side stories that weave through deal with renewed anxieties associated with her mother and navigating her new abilities, ins and outs of her job at the college, personal relationships with BFF Toniann Di Lorenzo and residents in her apartment building, and exploring a realistic, positive romantic entanglement with a respected veterinarian that challenges her phobia of large animals. This is a great place to start the Mother and Me Mystery series.

Grave Expectations earns 5/5 Hooded Figures…Clever, Engaging!

mystery“Clunk!” Sounds like Marabella’s mother has arrived. “Am I in trouble again?” The details behind how her mother can make the ghostly journey is complicated, but her appearance seems to herald dire events. “No, it’s Sam. Go check on Sam.” Sam, her seventy-year-old neighbor, had been a nice companion for Marabella’s mother before she got sick and in many ways a substitute father. He had trusted her so much he named her the executor of his substantial estate instead of any family member. So, her emotions kicked in, and she ran to Sam’s apartment banging on the door loudly calling his name…no answer. After a 9-1-1 call and the super being implored to open the door, they discover Sam…too late. It appears, after seeing his lifeless state and his specialized prescription drugs, he died of a heart attack. But, suspicions arise when Rose, another resident and one of Sam’s close companions, frantically explains her fears that she may have been seen eavesdropping on an argument between Sam and someone she couldn’t clearly identify. “Why are you so against this, you stubborn old man?” Marabella warily decides to approach the cops after she finds Rose injured and incoherent, “Didn’t…fall…pushed.” But even with Rose’s eyewitness details, several suspicious relatives, someone in a hoodie, and more dead, Lieutenant Rivera is not amused with her involvement.

I loved the almost 300-pages of Sandra Gardner’s second book encompassing so much drama, conflict, mystery, humor, and touching moments of friendships and love keeping me totally engaged! I was fascinated by her perspective that those who’ve returned from the beyond have more corporeal abilities than the traditional “ghost” mythology; Marabella’s mother who can change attire, sleep when tired, retrieve objects, eat, and cook…well, she couldn’t cook when alive, and in death her cooking has not improved. The family members are all different and each one may have a reason to speed up receiving their inheritance, but someone with money could just be a target. The “who” and “why” was a delightful challenge for my inner detective. And “Mr. Right” is a new experience for one who has only had “Mr. Wrongs” showing Marabella’s softer, loving side. But, there’s so much more to enjoy and a “Nailed it!” ending.

Alert! Book three Death of a Nuisance will be released this year. What happens when the person everyone on campus would like to see dead—turns up dead? Marabella Vinegar and her boss and friend, Susan Davies, find the body of Myra Newsome, a professor in the English department and an equal opportunity bigot, in the parking garage on the campus of Chelsea College. Then everything starts to go crazy for Marabella Vinegar at her job as a writer/editor in the P.R. department of the college. First, Susan, who’s had a long-running feud with Professor Newsome (aka Nasty Nuisance) is accused of the murder by the NYPD. After Susan is suspended from her job as P.R. director, pending the outcome of the police investigation, Marabella, who’s terrified of the job, has to take over. She should have known bad news was coming. Her deceased mother, who appears when her daughter’s about to get in trouble, has just come back. Again! Then there’s another murder. Marabella (and her mother) are hot on the trail. And the killer is hot on hers …

Be a Big Fan!


Sandra Gardner

Sandra Gardner is a former contributing writer and columnist for The New York Times, and the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction. Dead Shrinks Don’t Talk, the first in the Mother and Me Mysteries, was published by Black Opal Books in May, 2018. Grave Expectations, book 2, was released in December, 2018. Death of a Nuisance, book 3, is scheduled for publication in 2019. Halley and Me, a coming-of-age novel, won the Grassic Short Novel Prize from Evening Street Press in 2012. Nonfiction books include Teenage Suicide and Street Gangs in America, published respectively by Simon & Schuster and Franklin Watts. Street Gangs in America received a book award from the National Federation of Press Women. She has also taught writing for the International Women’s Writing Guild and the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Facebook Friends – Sandra Gardner
Website – Sandra Gardner, Author

To enter to win a copy of Grace Expectations, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “expectations,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 23, 2019. If entering via comment please include your email address. US residents only. If entering via email be sure to include your mailing address (so we can send you the book if you win). You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also check our our new mystery podcast! A new episode went up this week.

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thanks for the chance. JL_Minter (at) hotmail (dot) com

  2. Captivating and intriguing feature and giveaway. Thanks.

  3. A new author to me. I liked the description of the book and would really enjoy reading the book.

  4. I’ve not read Sandra Gardner’s books but from your review I will be adding her to my list. I love books that include a spirit in them to assist in solving a mystery. Thanks for presenting Ms. Gardner’s books in your blog.

    • thanks so much, Robin! so happy that you plan to read my book=== hope you enjoy it!

  5. Sounds like a dilemma. Not sure I
    would want my mother to return
    under those circumstances.
    Have fun. thanks for the chance
    to try this series.

  6. We have a winner!


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