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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Remains of the Dead


****½ The Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts. Mystery.









I read this for the Cherry Forums Book Club discussion that took place back in February.

Sadie Novak has an unusual business: she cleans crime scenes. She also has an unusual ability: she can see ghosts, although never those of suicides. Given the nature of her job, she fairly frequently sees ghosts, who are often unaware that they're dead, and she gains a measure of satisfaction by helping them move on.

She's cleaning the home of Grant and Trudy Toth, a murder-suicide, and Trudy's ghost lets her know that Grant isn't her murderer. But she moves on before she can say who the real killer is.

So Sadie starts investigating, hampered by being unable to explain that she'd talked with the ghost, and she finds herself framed for theft, which threatens her business, and shot at.

There's quite a lot going on in this book in addition to the murder mystery. Sadie's employee Zack, is an ex-cop with a difficult past, and they're just beginning to get to know, understand, and respect each other. Also, Sadie has trouble accepting her psychic gift, and that's dealt with as well. Then there's her brother's suicide, which prompted her to start her business in the first place. Sadie hasn't come to terms with that, either, and it's affecting her relationship with her sister, among other things.

All of this makes for a very satisfying read. The mystery was intriguing, and Sadie's investigation was smart and true to her character, and I liked the twist at the end--several people said they saw it coming, but I didn't. And that would have been enough to make it a fun story, but all the other things that are going on make it all feel more real, and make me care, not just about whodunit, but about the characters as well.

I just have to mention: I very much appreciated the realism in the clean-up scenes, which may be too graphic for some readers. There was gore, yes, but the focus was exactly as Sadie would be thinking of it: how to clean it. And I was thrilled with the protective measures she used--I even checked with my resident Preventive Medicine Consultant, and he approved of them, as well.

I'm looking forward to the next book, Devil May Ride, in December.

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