Book Jacket


rank 2518
word count 39096
date submitted 19.11.2011
date updated 11.01.2014
genres: Thriller, Horror, Crime
classification: adult

Mysteries of a Shallow Grave

Laura Bryan

Don’t miss another day of school. For, he’s watching you, and to him, you're killable.


When the stresses of their final year in high school become too much for five life-long friends, they decide to play hooky and go hiking through a nearby field.

However, concealed behind overgrown trees and shrubs, nothing is as it seems.

They venture into a world they didn’t expect. Strange things begin to happen – voices, supernatural winds and the aroma of death.

The deeper they go, the more dangerous the harsh Australian terrain becomes.

Until, one by one, they disappear.


It’s been five years since Michael escaped that field. Now condemned to a life imprisoned inside a mental institution, he must piece together his horrific dreams and exhume the events of that fateful day, in order to save a young girls life.

Tristan, the only other survivor, is left a paralysed mute. Unknown to him, he harbours an inherited cognitive power. He must learn to understand this power before another life is taken.

*Raw and Unedited*

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court, death, friends, insanity, killer, murder, visions

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Kestrelraptorial wrote 575 days ago

Hi Laura,

Wow, these kids don't have to go far at all to get caught up in some psychotic horror chase. I wish I lived in a mysterious cursed neighborhood - would be very exciting! The first chapter is a perfect opening with the axe-crazy chase scene.

I liked how it was subtly told in the narration that this story takes place in Australia, with only Alex mentioning that 'there's a lot of kangaroo and sheep in this area'. Simply showing it in the worldbuilding, though you might consider saying it's in Australia in the story's pitch.

Anyway, I also like that you introduced each character in their own little chapter-arc before they all got together. It's a nice way to give them each a character and a story we care about rather than them being just caricatures in a horror story.

Something really needs to be done about step-parents. In almost every story they are cruel and abusive, and this actually does reflect reality. My siblings and I had a horrible controlfreak stepmother for nearly a decade, and each time we tried to appeal to our parents we were coerced into just tolerating her craziness. It left many scars on all of us. So Michael is in no way alone, and it's good for him to seek help from his friends. I think many readers will relate, and talking to friends can be of great relief and support. Maybe, though, they should gang up on cruel step-parents more . . .

I have a couple of editing suggestions. Not much, just minor fixes, and I overlook little things in my writing all the time:

Chapter 10 - 'No . . . Michael . . .' quickly, he jumped to his feet, the wind burning his face, and took chase, tripping over Tristan body that lay motionless on the ground. - "Tristan" should be "Tristan's" here.

I like the title of Chapter 11 'Bloody Mess'!
At the end of chapter eleven's first section - the last paragraph - 'The sight made Alex heave, vomiting over the front of hit shirt.' - 'hit shirt' should be "his shirt"

So the boys go for a hike and exploring in the woods - far more exciting than anything in school I agree - and as the sky grows dark and stormy the forest begins to close in around them, and they get separated, falling into traps laid by the trees themselves and the crazy axe man. These chapters have great visualization and I can feel them running, falling, bleeding, and screaming.

Michael and Tristan are the only survivors. Other than Alex, I'm not sure I got enough of the other boys' death scenes. I recall Brendon being knocked out by a tree and I guess the man coming to finish him off. Kyle and Danny I'm not so sure what ultimately befell them . . .

There are still quite a few pieces to be resolved. What happens to Michael in that mental institution, how or if Tristan recovers, what the v tree is hiding . . . do let me know when you have more chapters.

Kestrelraptorial (Dragonraptor)

eltondiva wrote 682 days ago

HCG Review Mysteries of a Shallow Grave

Apologies for the late review, I am in catch up mode.

This story creates emotional bonding between the reader and characters. I think the author does this very well. There's not enough descriptions but what there is, is marvelous. There are elements of a screenplay here and there, (I do like that sometimes as the reader has a chance to visualize) and it provided some cringe worthy moments. I think capturing the element of horror is certainly there. I am certain this will do well with the popular horror fans here.
Best wishes
Colleen (Demon Rising, The Symbol of Wrath)

Eden Ashley wrote 728 days ago

Hey Laura! I'm here for our read swap. Sorry it's taken me so long to get here. Taking into consideration that Mysteries of a Shallow Grave is raw and unedited, I tried to simply read it for overall idea, direction, and characterization.
The prologue-You've done a great job of capturing the horror element in tone, pace, and description. I cringed several times reading the aftermath of the accident. And you gave me enough about the characters to make me care when bad things started happening to them.
With chapter one begins the individual character storylines that will eventually converge. At the end of Michael's chapter, the last sentence "I can tell this isn't going to turn out well" could be a great hook ending but the sentence is unclear to what it's referencing. So it's just kinda floating there. It directly follows the mention of Denise having a conversation with John and driving away. So I was left thinking--is Michael worried that she's going to get beaten. Or is he foreshadowing the rest of his day?
You gave a very rich and detailed background for Michael. Who wouldn't sympathize with this poor kid's situation? Of course this is a rough draft, so I'm sure you'll be tightening things up a lot but overall, I think you're off to a great start. I'm very behind on reading, editing, and a bunch of other stuff. But I will stop here and come back to your story as soon as possible :)

Good job & happy typing!

Eden Ashley wrote 728 days ago

Sorry for the double...crazy site

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 731 days ago

You would do Stephen King proud with your cast of dysfunctional characters and grisly scenes. "Mysteries of a Shallow Grave" is a grabber right from the start, and prying oneself from its bony grip, even for a snack break, takes mighty effort, indeed. Your characterizations are true-to-life, your pacing brisk and your descriptives vivid. Your prose is simple and easy to follow, your dialogue in brief breathy sentences as one would hear them in real life. Thanks for the thrills.

Kenneth Edward Lim
The North Korean

Lozzy84 wrote 736 days ago

Thank you all for your time and honest comments. I was very nervous about it, now I’m glad I joined the Horror Critic Group.

I'm working on changing a few things as we speak. I do realise a lot of people are confused about the prologue and the continuing chapters. It does come to light about mid book, which I'm still reading through. Mind you, I did write this book when I was 16, a long time ago. It is taking me an awful long time to change and edit, rewriting things I have learnt now.

Thank you again, I will take everyone’s comments and use them to better myself, that's what this sites all about.


mhebler wrote 736 days ago

HCG Review - "Mysteries of a Shallow Grave"

This story moves at a very exciting pace. There is a lot going on that grabs a reader's attention and the author pulls you in at an emotional level, especially during the conflict between Michael and John. Some of the descriptive prose is absolutely brilliant; however, there is not enough. In many ways, this story reads as if it were half novel - half screenplay. There is a lot of exposition in the dialogue, of which there is already too much. A lot of what is going on through a character's mind can be adapted into thought or prose. For example, we do not need to know that Mark is Holly's brother through dialogue. As clever as it is disguised, it still comes across as exposition. By making these changes, the backgrounds of each character - especially in the prologue where it is a bit confusing - can be flushed out. However brief, we should be feeling the same sympathy for the four teenagers in the car as we do for Michael and his family. I did not have a problem with the limited description of the old Hobo man as I assume he will come into play later in the story and all questions will be answered.

Have more fun with the prose. I can tell you already have, but be sure to not let the pacing suffer for it because I believe you have that nailed. Good job.

Michael Hebler - "Night of the Chupacabra"

Su Dan wrote 736 days ago

excellent descriptive and creepy horror. you do not hold back...
already backed...
read SEASONS...

Johnny Appleseed wrote 736 days ago

Horror Critique Group Review

by Laura Bryan

…is a horror story that starts off with a “terror”-ific punch then seems to evaporate into the back stories of a group of teens who (I hope) come together and have to survive a “terror”-ific ordeal like the teens in the Prologue.

Who hasn’t seen the “teens in the dark woods” scene a number of times? The Prologue could have worked had at least one of the characters in the car been a little likeable. Is this a commentary on teens today? Anyway, I have to agree with other reviewers who point out that given the degree of the accident and their injuries, (and their seeming weak characteristics), they would not have been running about blabbering like that. Besides, where are the smart phones? Teens in a car going to a party and there are no phones, no texting, no pics or vids being taken? The teens I know probably would have been talking less and texting more. Unless this scene is taking place more than 10 years ago—and there are no hints of that—there is a serious developmental issue here. Don’t get me wrong (don’t you love it when someone takes an axe at you then tries to assuage you?), I like this scene. The kids get what they deserve. Nevertheless, Laura, you need to go back and rethink what happens—especially with Greg and Holly. Perhaps Holly is text-complaining to Trudy, not aloud like in the narrative. Maybe Greg gets curious as to what they are giggling about and has Mark snatch the phone and read aloud the textversation. Maybe that is what gets Greg pissed off, causing the accident.

The following parts shift gears way too abruptly. I kept wondering if the murders in the Prologue were going to be mentioned. No. They were totally forgotten to the point that I wondered if this was the same story. How is the Prologue connected to these people?

I liked the relationship between Michael and his younger brother. And John…he was truly a demonic character. I can see a future fight brewing between Michael and John. But besides the violent tension between these two, where’s the horror? But I could tell myself that it was coming…

There is a little paranormal chill in Part 2 with the talk of superstitions (I think you mean “premonitions”) and the cloud and the darkening of the kitchen. But that is it for the remaining two chapters. After five chapters, I was wondering if I was reading a teen novel. There is barely a hint of horror.

I suggest, besides the changes to the Prologue, that you need to insert something between Part 2: Tristan and Part 3: Kyle, some foreshadowing of the coming main horror conflict. If this is to be a horror story, I expect some horror…some dread, some menace, some terror. Even a little tension. Something beyond the domestic lives of these teens.

All that being said (here’s some more assuaging), you have a good command of dialogue. For the most part, it flows nicely and reads easily. This is not an easy thing to do. At times it seems a little forced, particularly in Part 1: Michael, when he says,

“I’ve put up with your nonsense for far too long[.] [N]o more, John. [N]ever again.”
[Brackets show corrections.]

Do teens talk like this? Not really:

“I’m sick of your crap! You suck! Get out of my face!”

As a teacher long ago and far away, I heard that come out of quite a few teens at their parents (right in front of me). If the kid has really had enough, he is going to say what he really wants to, and to hell with the consequences. Besides, given how John is with Michael’s mother, I wonder how Michael restrains himself with the near archaic line you have him say, Laura. Has John been abusive to Michael too? I don’t get that impression.

Anyway, I hope I have been honest with you so that you have some places on which you can work a rewrite. I got the same axe-grinding from someone, too, and I have begun a total re-VISION of my book. It looks nothing like what I have here on Authonomy.

Good luck to you!

Johnny Appleseed

Paul Dyer wrote 736 days ago

HCG Review

What a marvelously unpleasant cast of characters. I agree with another reviewer who pointed out that we’re greeted with a barrage of characters and not one we can connect with. Which is probably fine in a prologue like this, which is merely setting up the tale. I found the teenagers in the opening section especially vapid and unlikable. Why Greg would be with a someone like Holly and NOT wanting to drive his car into a tree I cannot for the life of me imagine.

I’m not a medical professional by any stretch but I found some of the injuries inconsistent with the accompanying action: a girl with a broken neck having a rational conversation; a girl with a flayed cheek and torn facial muscles berating her boyfriend and playing Pietà with her dead brother. On film, you could just show the injuries and a lot of shrieking, but how to convey this in a novel, while advancing the narrative? That, to me, is the crux of the problem in the prologue, not just in this but in other novels I’m reading in my job as an editor. It is far more difficult for prose to imitate film than for film to imitate prose.

The premise is excellent and, as others have noted, can truly propel the reader through the text. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, but that may not be the fault of the writer at all. Consider that I’m madly in love with Elena Gilbert from the television version of “The Vampire Diaries,” and you have some idea of the characters I more readily connect with. I do believe that the work, as it stands, requires some careful and constructive editing before it becomes salable. Then I think it stands an excellent chance of gaining a following, probably among teenagers and fans of Splatterpunk in general.

Kenny Dreadful wrote 737 days ago

HCG Review - Mysteries of a Shallow Grave

Ok I agree with some of the other reviews here about the typos and spelling etc, but to me these are easily corrected. :)
The first chapter reminds me a little of the old Point Horror books I used to read as a teen (which is what I thought of wes Craven's Scream aswell). The crash itself is tense and it's here where the writer has gained confidence as the pace quickens. I feel the wild man could do with a bit more describing. I want to be truly horrified by this man's appearance and not just be told about a random hobo. That is my only concern here though.
The next chapter provides some great back story to the character Michael, with his life being fleshed out with some quality dialogue. Part of me wanted him to smack the hell out of John. :)
I can say it feels like a great start to this tale and I'll be back for more :)

Markal wrote 739 days ago

“Horror Critique Group Review”.

Mysteries of a shallow grave

Hi, Laura, please understand that the following comment is meant to help you, and is purely subjective.

In your first paragraph you repeat “bitumen” at the end, change the second one to road.
I also noticed a lot of hyphenated phrases that you haven’t hyphenated.
Jim Beam is a brand name; I don’t think it can be made at home. Try moonshine, or whiskey.

My main concern with this, Laura, is the fact that we have no idea who your main character is, even if the story’s MC isn’t in your prologue, we still need to identify with someone, feel what they feel, hear and see what they hear and see. But what you give us are three or four different characters’ P’sOV, and this left me confused, as it will with most readers.

The storyline of a group of teenagers driving on dark country roads and ending up lost, or in some kind of collision, isn’t original, but it can be quite graphic when done well. My suggestion to you would be to rewrite the whole first chapter from one character’s POV, preferably the last one standing, only changing that POV at the very end to give us the killer’s thoughts. If you do, and you do it well enough, readers will turn to the next page of your book, and that’s all that matters, getting your reader to read on.

Best of luck anyway,

M A Lewis

Jaysan Cort wrote 740 days ago

Now this is what I was looking for. Well eventually. Let me begin, I was reading away and after a few pages started to get bored with the teen scenario that has been the stable of many a horror. I thought i was watching - i know what you did last summer. Then it happened, I was about to stop reading when the crash happened. Sudden with vigour and my eyes opened wide. I started to read faster, I started to wonder what was going to happen next. The dead bodies, we had one dead with his arm hanging off and another crippled far from the car. Then the mountain man pops up and starts killing the rest. The question remains did he kill and cripple while they were knocked out, who knows but the question is valid and interesting. I liked the start, one thing I would have done is have the cripple eaten by the dogs, is that just me being over blood thirsty? either way a good start and as with all my reviews if it gets me onto the second chapter then it gets the thumbs up from me.

WiSpY wrote 740 days ago

This needs some editing, but it was a compelling read. There are grammatical errors and some words used incorrectly, but at times the descriptions were fabulous. Your story is definitely horror :)

Tarzan For Real wrote 741 days ago

Will have to check this out. It's a cool concept and I'll put this on my watch list.--JL "The Devil Of Black Bayou"

Christian Bell wrote 742 days ago

Horror Critique Group Review
Mysteries of a Shallow Grave.

Starts well, the descriptive text reads very well, the characters flow well through quite believable dialogue.
The action spikes when the car crashes, I did like the sentence “The moon retreated behind the clouds, as though the sight of the accident had frightened it into hiding.” Things got a little hazy as the story continued with the dialogue. On occasion I had to check back to see if I had missed who had said what. But all in all it was good.
The appearance of the Maniac was good, it had a reason for him to react and to be there. I enjoyed the way he killed Greg, I like the way you leave Trudy’s death to our own Imagination. Holly died in good old Hollywood fashion, her head rolling to the tree just for luck. Good but a more imaginative death would of made it better in my view. Perhaps the hounds ripping her apart or even the tree its self.

Chapter 1, were all friends here, Michael Jameson.
I enjoyed this Chapter, it flowed well and the Characters and dialogue were very good. The young man stepping up to the over powering Step-Father was well written and organised and at a reasonable pace. The descriptions of the family were top notch.

Chapter 1, were all friends here, Tristan Watson.
Totally lost me, I even went back to check that I hadn’t missed something. I think it would read better if you continued up the numbers as in 1, 2, 3 etc, perhaps just heading that particular series of chapters “we are all friends here.” It was so off putting to read chapter 1 over and over. This chapter lacked a little of M J’s magic in the dialogue stakes but rolled reasonably well. 1 or 2 typo’s but that’s not a problem and didn’t defer from the storyline.

All in all I enjoyed this story.

GILLIAN.M.H wrote 742 days ago

Horror Critique group - Mysteries of a Shallow Grave - Laura Bryan
Scary book cover - Pitch looks excellent - tags insain should be insane.
chapter one - When Holly complains that her boyfriend Greg will not do as he's told, by wearing what she tells him too, I could just tell there was going to be trouble. From Holly's brother Mark 's comment, she sounds a right nag. But I don't think much of Greg for drinking and driving, and saying 'let's break up in style', and attempting to kill them all in a car crash. Mark eggs Greg on to go fast, so it serves him right that he gets killed in the crash.
A very dramatic first chapter.

Chapter Two - or should it be story two - I just could not get into this story.

Aidan2002 wrote 742 days ago

HCG review – Mysteries of a Shallow Grave

Chapter 1

Wow is all I can say about this first chapter. This is perfectly at home in this group and too be honest when I first started reading I thought Oh no not another teenage horror novel, but have to admit I was wrong and should start to take my own advice of not judging a book by its cover. The tension is slick and keeps you gripped, posing questions along the way which is what a first chapter should do.
In the first paragraph the word WAS kept jumping out at me and I know you only used it twice. Think about the words and what you are trying to say. One word can create a powerful image.
In the second Paragraph you have a flowery description of Holly’s legs which in my opinion isn’t needed. The single word shapely evokes the same image.
Now I come to the car crash, burning tyres doesn’t sit right with me. Images of Ghost rider come to mind. Smoking tyres or burning rubber – though the latter may be somewhat of a cliché. I don’t know, but try to play around with words a bit.
The car clipped a fallen tree and smacked into another. Again the word smacked doesn’t feel right. It gives an impression that the car hit the tree resulting in minor damage.
You also have stated that the man in the woods killed all four teenagers. We were with him for three of the murders. So did he kill Mark? The story has indicated that he was already dead – killed in the crash. Forgive me if this is revealed in later chapters, but I’m typing as I read and found it strange.
On a whole I feel that this chapter is excellent, requires a bit of tweaking here and there, but it certainly hits the Horror spot.
Chapter 2
This has a lot of typos and will need a major edit, though I did feel Michael’s helplessness throughout. This chapter is perfect in the sense that it is removed from the gory horror of the first, yet maintains a familiar tension that reveals a horror all of its own.
Chapters 3 – 5
A lot of typos and word continuity here – these need serious editing.
There is too much background information which loses the reader’s attention. Horror needs to be punchy, each chapter ending with a rising question – building tension.
On a whole your writing is strong and fluid, giving the reader a sense of place in your story, but I found myself being drawn back into thinking this is a YA Horror which from the first chapter it is obviously not. I did enjoy reading this, but like I said you lost me with the background information. I hope these observations have helped and if nothing else I have provided a basis for you to look at your work from a different perspective. Good luck.

inspectorrick wrote 742 days ago

Hi Laura! This is a HCG review of your book Mysteries of a Shallow Grave. I am no expert in this thing called writing so what I say is just my opinion. I try to be as objective as possible, with an eye to making what you have written as good as possible. The story so far (ch 3) is very dry, but possible. Others have told me that the action has to be at the start with all of the back story for the characters at the end of the book. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. I think a balance has to be achieved for each book.

Prologue - generally, this comment has to do with eliminating unnecessary words or changing words around to give a different impression without lessening the impact. In the first paragraph, the following words could be eliminated without detracting from the scene; off-white, empty of cars and wildlife.
Change the rest of the sentence about fences to make the scene more desolate. The part about the moon could be eliminated or lessened and make the next sentence read - The headlights barely cut the darkness on the highway. Bitumen should be highway or pavement or just road.

2nd paragraph - the first sentence is too long and the order of words is hard to read. The whole story up to the end of the crash is a bit too clinical and stilted. It sounds like a police description rather than a viewing of the scene unfolding. There are a couple of anomolies that made me stop reading. The car is spinning out of control when Mark hollers 'Stop the car' and then it spirals out of control. There are too many unnecessary adjectives;
-surprisingly nimble feet, screams rippling, bone chilling, etc.

Ch 1 - Try changing the wording of sentences to make them easier to read. For instance;
-The familiar roar of heated voices beyond the bedroom door, startled Michael awake. We don't need to know the bedroom is his yet. The word familiar could also be eliminated and then the rest of the chapter lets us know it happens all the time.
- turned to face his bedside alarm clock. The clock is a prop and leave the description to his remembering his father.

Ch 2 - pretty much the same as ch 1.

As I said at the beginning, I'm no expert at this. There are several things I've learned over the last couple of years, which I think are important. They can be summed up in two questions;
1 - who is going to read this book?
2 - is that word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, necessary to tell the story?
- in the first case, age, and geographical location are important. Age is self explanitory, but the part of the world the reader is living in is the geographical location. Using words which are common place to Australia for instance, make no sense to someone living in Arkansas, USA.
- I've already mentioned several situations where you've used extra words. Imagine the scene and write it. Then ask yourself if it really matters whether the car is white or off-white. Does it matter to the reader if the speaker sighs or the moonlight glints? Will it change the mood if the extra adjectives aren't there? I read Stephen King's book on writing and used this technique on my book Jack, I Am. You have to be brutal sometimes but it does help.

Good luck with this and I hope to be able to return to an edited version. It's a good story worth putting the effort into.

J C Michael wrote 742 days ago

Mysteries of a Shallow Grave part 2

Once we get beyond the introduction of all the characters things do pick up, and it's a shame that what you have uploaded finishes just as things start to get interesting. As someone who has, and no doubt will next week, be pulled up for slowing the pace down too much after an intense opening I fully understand why you want to get the reader to really know your characters but I honestly think that you should cut down on this section, or at least mix things up. Let one of the characters tell the others about his morning once they have met up for instance.

Overall I just think you need to tighten things up a bit. It's only my opinion but with a good strong premise like you have I think it would be a shame for people to be put off by a too drastic slowing of pace. It's something that I've been made aware of and I would hate for us both to suffer from the same problem.

philip john wrote 742 days ago

This is coming along nicely and with the usual tidying up , which involves a lot of reading and re-reading it should come out well. However young people speak in real life, too much swearing on the page starts to grate a little.

Best wishes and do carry on writing.

Philip John

J C Michael wrote 743 days ago


First off chapter 6 is a repeat of 4 so you may want to fix that before you start to clock up the reviews over the forthcoming week.
Secondly, I appreciate that this is a first draft, and we all make mistakes, but I hope that you intend on tidying this up sooner rather than later as there are quite a few typos, and in some places they break up the flow of the writing to such an extent that it detracts from the story.
Now moving onto the content I like the pitch and the idea behind the book. I also liked the prologue, nice and hard hitting to grab the reader. We then move onto the introduction of your characters and the first instance of this works well. However, repeating the format for other characters doesn't work for me and after a while I found myself skimming things as I read about yet another characters preparations for going to school. Characters need to be introduced and background given but I think this could be varied a little, maybe one character introduced the night before, then one as they get ready for school, a third once the group have met up etc etc.
Having read up to Chapter 7 the fact that this is an unedited draft shows, but there is a degree of promise here and with a bit of work I'm sure this can be polished up into an effective horror novel.
I will return to this as with only two more uploaded chapters to read I may as well read them all, and I also want to get beyond the character introductions to see where you take things next.

riantorr wrote 743 days ago

"Its destination was at a Halloween house party, forty-five minutes away."

Read it both ways and you will probably see what I mean.

Usually good to compact nouns as such to stay succinct.

Rian Torr
New London Masquerade

Mark Kirkbride wrote 777 days ago

Hi Laura,

I read the first chapter tonight. Wow, this is really visceral writing. I liked the word 'killable' and the line about 'supernatural winds and the aroma of death' in the pitch. And I loved the fact they're all in Halloween costumes, then suddenly pitched into their own nightmare. I found the teenagers' dialogue and attitudes utterly convincing. I did spot a couple of typos but they can easily be cleared up ('in not what a zombie king', breaks > brakes, rained for > rained from? them smiled > then smiled?). I don't know if you intended the spelling 'Grose'. You could probably get away with it in dialogue. But I hope you can tell I enjoyed this immensely. All I can say is that if I was a publisher, I would definitely publsh this. I'll try and check out another of your books when I get a chance.

Mark, The Devil's Fan Club