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A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli #1)

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,035 Ratings  ·  342 Reviews
This gripping debut of the Kate Martinelli mystery series won the Edgar Awardfor Best First Mystery, generating wide critical acclaim and moving Laurie R.King into the upper tier of the genre. As "A Grave Talent" begins, The unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A string of shocking murders has occurred, each victim an innocent child. For ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 342 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Crimeline (first published 1993)
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Best Crime & Mystery Books
205th out of 5,415 books — 12,244 voters
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Best Detective/Mystery Series
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kayla Perry
May 01, 2014 Kayla Perry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense
Before anything else I have to address some of the reviews of this book.

Being gay is not an agenda. Wanting this to be kept private and free from literature is tantamount to saying that you want to erase gay people from a literary presence which is, to put it bluntly, some bigoted bullshit. There is nothing "politically correct" about an author writing about a happy lesbian couple. Gay people exist in the real world and they deserve to be written about in a flattering or even matter-of-fact mann
Mar 10, 2016 Janell rated it it was ok
Until about 2/3 through, this book was getting 5 stars. It had a compelling mystery, good character development and descriptions that enhanced the story that you actually wanted to read rather than skip. However, the last half of the book I felt manipulated as a reader and the mystery became more of a side line. Disappointing!
May 01, 2010 Julie rated it liked it
Hmmm. Conflicted. I liked it yet it irked me. The plot was gripping enough but some of the characters seemed almost mystically glorified (Saintly Lee and The Creator Vaugn) and not real humans. I liked all the "arty" stuff a lot, and would like to see some of Vaugn's paintings. (If, you know, she were real.) I can't remember when this novel was published and am too tired right now to Google it but I thought I remember 1992 -- yet parts of this novel seem set solidly in the mid-70's and the rest ...more
Catherine Leggitt
Jul 30, 2013 Catherine Leggitt rated it it was ok
Having read the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie King, I anticipated great writing in her debut novel. Ah, a female detective, even better. I dug in with eagerness. The plot held my attention for a while. Three children murdered. Some connection to a bizarre bohemian enclave in the mountains near San Francisco. Nice budding relationship between the new-kid-on-the-block, Kate Martinelli, and her male detective partner. The writing was great. The imagery superb.

THEN the story stalled w
Aug 04, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
The initial premise is tried and true: a veteran detective, Al Hawkins, is assigned a new partner, Kate Martinelli. She's no rookie, but she's climbed quickly up the ranks, and now that Al's been assigned the investigation of a little girl's murder, the higher ups want a woman on the case. And that's where A Grave Talent departs from the tried and true. Not that it falls short; on the contrary, this is an exciting, riveting police procedural. What is so surprising about AGT is that it was actual ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Slow to warm and fast to end, this Edgar Award winner finished on a high note that resolved some doubts I’d had through much of the book. Protagonist Kate and her partner Al are thrown together to investigate the murders of three girls. The location of the bodies in an enclave of simple living run by one man on the west side of the San Francisco peninsula, draws attention to a woman, Vaun, who turns out to have a past that seems to implicate her in the slayings. Vaun is known locally to be an ar ...more
I was not there when my book club picked this book, so when I saw the title—and then the cover—I thought this was going to be a vampire book. (Does that say more about me, or about publishing trends?)

In any case, there are no vampires here—only a deeply closeted detective (even the author is coy about her relationship right up until page 174), an artist, and a string of murdered children.

A Grave Talent was published in the early 90s, something reflected in both Martinelli's reluctance to come ou
Aug 28, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it
I read King's "With Child" a few months ago and I enjoyed it immensely, so I was quite pleased to snag this book, the first in the Kate Martinelli series. That leaves me to discover three more novels (so far) in the series.

It does not read the way I expected a police procedural to read. We are in the head of the detectives a lot, for one thing. I tend to think of procedural as being structured like Dragnet. There was more feeling and intuition than that here and everything was so much richer for
Oct 29, 2014 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read several of Laurie R. King's books, but decided to go back and read her now 20-year-old debut novel.

The good news is that it definitely holds up with time.

This book is introduction of King's female police officer, Kate Martinelli. She's brought in to be the public face in charge of investigating the disappearance and murder of three young Bay Area girls, all of whose bodies are found on a property called Tyler's Road. The Road, as it is colloquially called, is a sort of commune of med
Lexxi Kitty
This is one of those that was quite solid, that I was seriously thinking of rating it 5 stars at one point. Then later seriously considering rating it 3 stars. There were certain elements I can't mention or I'd have to tag this "full of spoilers" that didn't so much annoy me as make me feel let down.

There was a certain amount of manipulation, of author pulling on heart strings to get reactions out of readers that I started to feel a little too acutely.

It was a solid book, beginning middle and e
Oct 02, 2009 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
This interesting detective story introduces female detective Casey Martinelli and her partner Al Hawkins.
Together they investigate the murders of three little girls in separate incidences. The bodies are found in the same area and the occupants of ‘The Road’ are the most likely suspects. The Road is a hippy commune kind of set up; quite literally a road isolated and lorded over by a single man – Tyler. The Road is run according to his rules and is not electrified and no cars are allowed on it ex
Jill Holmes
Nov 05, 2012 Jill Holmes rated it really liked it
Laurie R. King's award-winning "A Grave Talent" introduces readers to Kate Martinelli, a policewoman recently promoted to detective, and the senior detective, Al Hawkin, with whom she is paired. Their first case together has them tracking down the killer of three little girls in an isolated, self-sufficient community in the Santa Cruz mountains south of San Francisco. The killings bear a strong resemblance to a murder some years ago, and they find the convicted killer in the community, having co ...more
May 07, 2009 Lynne-marie rated it it was ok
This the first of the Kate Martinelli series by Laurie R. King. It is very deeply disturbing in conception and psychological characterization: and that would seem to be it's strength and point. Which is to say that it is written to distress, disturb and discompose. Given these intents, the characters fulfill these intentions, as do the plotting and the twists of tale. Whoever choses books that make their adrenaline burst out, their stomachs wretch and their minds reel with horror, will have the ...more
Jul 08, 2015 L rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The first Kate Martinelli book--I've just begun, but this promised to be a great introduction to the characters. It was. Laurie King writes a hell of a tale!
May 25, 2016 Angel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those stories that you find that you've held your breath for a long time and find relief when you finally sigh. Terrific.
Apr 07, 2016 Janet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 out of 5 stars

I didn't like this very much at all.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I finished this book. I felt like I HAD to for some reason, as it features a lesbian main character. I felt that I needed to read something written about one of my people, you know?

Let's begin with what I did like: The premise. It had a lot of promise. There is a serial killer of children outside of San Francisco and all leads seem to point to a reclusive painter that lives in an off the beaten path colony. The pa
Jan 07, 2016 Aimee rated it liked it
Shelves: adults
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2015 Carolyne rated it it was ok
While I thoroughly love her Mary Russell series, her Kate Martinelli was hard for me to get into. She smartly started with a mystery we could all relate to in regards to her, about a Sherlock enthusiast/obsessive; but it just was a little boring. My favorite parts were related to the detective work. I could barely read the book within the book and found the relationship stuff distracting.

Yet, there are some books where it is fine. Harry Dresden, for example. But, as I reader I am with him as th
May 14, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: library, 2015
I enjoyed A Grave Talent. I don't really read mysteries, so I can't say how it holds up when compared to the genre as a whole.

The main character, Casey, reminded me of Kate Becket on Castle, and this is certainly a positive. Casey is competent, but also new at what she's doing, and has some personal issues that make her more interesting, but also aren't the main focus of the book.

My biggest criticism is that most of the narrative surrounding Lee, Casey's significant other, is told in a way that
Mike Cuthbert
Apr 02, 2014 Mike Cuthbert rated it really liked it
We know who did it for the entire novel, but we’re not always sure what his name is. We also know that world-famous artist Vaun Adams was convicted of murder in her youth but the clouds are lifting on that story as a series of murders takes place in a small town outside San Francisco. The murders are of young women and suspicion falls on Adams because of her alleged past. Policewoman just promoted to homicide Inspector Kate Marinelli discovers the artist in dire shape in her country place and su ...more
King, Laurie R. - 1st in Kate Martinelli series

Although Kate Martinelli, a newly promoted homicide detective with a secret to conceal, and Alonzo Hawkin, a world-weary cop trying to make a new life in San Francisco, could not be more different, they are thrown together to solve a brutal crime - the murders of three young girls.

This was very good! I shall definitely look for her future books.
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Aug 17, 2012 Kelly H. (Maybedog) rated it liked it
This was fine, a standard urban mystery with some danger although I wouldn't call it a thriller. Then again I read it years ago and barely remember it. Definitely not as good as the Mary Russell books. I remember something horrifying about a baby and that my feelings not being in line with the characters, and that's about it. Obviously not that memorable but not bad.
Pat Stearman
May 24, 2014 Pat Stearman rated it really liked it
The first Kate Martinelli! Clever story, love the writing, happy to catch up with how the series started and the characters were introduced.

I just had to edit this to address most of the other reviews on the Goodreads page. Now, I knew Kate was gay from the start because I read the books out of order but why would anyone think it was a)necessary to make the comment and b) decide she hated the book once that small fact came out (so to speak!). Admittedly I suspect the people concerned are Ameri
Feb 25, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing
Oh this book was deliciously good. I'm fascinated by how absorbed I get in these stories. Laurie King is a very good writer. I enjoyed all the psychology in this one, all the pondering about human relationships and therapy and self-awareness and character development. A fabulous read to which I gave over much of the day.
Jessica Some
Jul 24, 2016 Jessica Some rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda C Smith
Sep 08, 2015 Linda C Smith rated it really liked it
This is the first novel I've read by this author and the first of the Kate Martinelli series...and I liked it! I'm a great fan of female detectives and murder mysteries and this novel did not disappoint. Being a native Californian and very familiar with the Bay Area made the locations fun and being familiar with Ren Faires didn't hurt either. I'm also an artist, as well as a writer, so the key suspect, Vaun Adams, herself an artist, was cool. Ms. King did a good job keeping the suspense up...tru ...more
Joe Slavinsky
Jan 24, 2016 Joe Slavinsky rated it it was amazing
I've really loved King's "Mary Russell" series, but hadn't read any of her other stuff. After I finished all the currently released "Russell" series, I decided to check out her earlier work. I have really been blown away, by "A Grave Talent". I can understand why it won an Edgar, and I'm amazed that it was her very first novel. There's just so much going for this book, it's hard to know where to begin to praise it. The characters are very real, the plot twists, and turns dramatically, and it rea ...more
Jun 27, 2008 WK rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lrk
This book with a renouned artist at it core is written by an author that is herself a true artist who enjoys using well chosen words to 'paint' an intricate and thoroughly enjoyable tale.
Lost Book Thoughts
Dec 27, 2014 Lost Book Thoughts rated it it was amazing
(4.5 Stars)

A really enjoyable detective/mystery novel. I've read some of the Sherlock Holmes series by her and I had some expectations for this novel. Even though it wasn't always very fast paced, I really loved all of the details and the characters. The writing is especially strong. Even when I was reading a long description about a character, which usually bores me, I wanted to read more. If you like detective novels, with plenty if mystery and a little bit of murder, then I would very much re
Robert Scott
May 24, 2016 Robert Scott rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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  • Killing Critics (Kathleen Mallory, #3)
  • The Blue Place (Aud Torvingen, #1)
Edgar-winning mystery writer Laurie R. King writes series and standalone novels. Her official forum is
THE LRK VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB here on Goodreads--please join us for book-discussing fun.

King's most recent novel, Dreaming Spies, sees Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes travel from Japan to Oxford, in a case with international players and personal meaning. The Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series foll
More about Laurie R. King...

Other Books in the Series

Kate Martinelli (5 books)
  • To Play the Fool (Kate Martinelli, #2)
  • With Child (Kate Martinelli, #3)
  • Night Work (Kate Martinelli, #4)
  • The Art of Detection (Kate Martinelli, #5)

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