In One Word

In One Word, Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw is…

grave importance

  • Published in 2019 by Orbit
  • Format: Paperback
  • Reading Time: 3 funny days


  • Ready for another New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge book and, this time, it’s for the Travel More prompt. I picked this because it was set in Marsailles where Dr Greta Helsing is asked to fill in as interim clinical director for a secret luxury health spa for mummies. The book certainly goes to some more creative places, however, as it comes to her attention that all the mummies in her care are suffering from the same mysterious complaint. To make matters worse, the mummies aren’t the only ones being weakened. The very fabric of reality itself is being torn apart and, if Greta doesn’t find what’s causing it soon, it’s only a matter of time before it completely crumbles.


  • Extends over several POVs and several plotlines. We don’t just follow Greta as she loves every second of working in the up-to-date and gorgeous spa. We also follow Varney who’s pondering over a very big un-death decision, Ruthven and his new partner running into trouble in Rome, a mysterious Leonora Van Dorne who has a love of flashing Ancient Egyptian finery and, finally, a pair of lost angels who really, really don’t like the modern sinful world. Luckily, all the plotlines are so distinct and so well woven together than it never feels tangled or too confusing. The big problem with the fabric was well built up with nice continuity nods to the previous two books and the big mystery around Leonora was pretty well handled too.


  • A lot of good humour, especially around all the surprising pests that could affect a supernaturally inclined home. Who would have thought screaming skulls could become an infestation and not be scary? Ruthven’s new and melodramatic partner, Grisaille, also provides a lot of funny lines so, even when the characters are in mortal peril, there’s always something to laugh at to prevent things becoming too dark.


  • So obvious that the author did their research on medical practice and did a good job of applying it to mummies. It’s clear they put a lot of thought into what diseases they might suffer from because of where they came from or because the right medicine hadn’t been invented yet. The book also did a good job of exploring all the ways to fix these ailments, turning everything supernatural into something completely domestic. It’s enjoyable to read if you’re into that stuff but, if you’re not medically minded, don’t worry. The book doesn’t blind you with science too much but it can feel like info dumping at times.


  • Ought to mention a bit more on the characters. They are all distinct and are pretty well developed. Greta, as ever, is her patient and professional self though we see her stretched to her absolute limit in this book. Varney, though still prone to the odd moping spell, is now hopefully looking forward to the future. Van Dorne could have done with more screentime and a bit more character development. What we did get in the end was a little rushed after a lot of build up. I’m also intrigued by the two angels and I hope they’ll appear again in any future books.


  • Nasty habit of skipping over dramatic segments so there’s never much tension in the narrative. It feels rather cosy right up to the point where it looks like the end of the world is upon the characters. Whenever there was action, it’s likely to be skipped over and talked about in hindsight. While it’s still fun and easy to read, you can’t say it’s the most exciting read and that’s the biggest problem I had with the book.


  • Almost impossible not to compare this to Good Omens as Heaven, Hell and a supernatural war (thought not a war between Heaven and Hell, oddly enough) get involved. The book even drops the ‘i’ word near the end but, while it has its funny moments, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Good Omens. It’s rather impressive that the book also managed to build a world where both Christian deities and Ancient Egyptian deities can live side by side and present us with limits on this too. I just wish the book had devoted a bit more to the – but that would be a spoiler so I’ll stop there.


  • Bizarrely beautiful and bureaucratic take on Hell in this one. It’s certainly a far cry from a place of eternal torment (unless you’re Fass and you’re trying to pull its ludicrously ill-managed civil service back from the brink) and gets described in lavish and jewel-filled detail. In fact, most of the locations in these books are incredibly beautiful, including the spa with all the most up-to-date tech and a wonderful location. This book is a good escapist novel in that respect.


  • Lost me a bit at the end when a quite literal deus ex machina takes place. In the space of a few chapters, a terrifying climax is curtailed and it feels like everything settled down far too easily with almost no lasting consequences. The book did its best to explain it but it still feels cheap.


  • Emotional climax was completely skipped over afterwards and went straight to a more sedate happy ending. That felt like the biggest letdown after a lot of build up. I’m not sorry I took the time to read this but I felt the ending could have done with a lot more work. Suffice to say that, because of that, this is probably my least favourite of the series.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

2 thoughts on “In One Word, Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw is…”

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