Jan 15 2008
Dear Ms. Bloom,
had never heard your name before Jane sent me a copy of
“The Mortician’s Daughter.” And I didn’t realize that you also wrote a mystery series under the name of Beth Saulnier until I checked at the Big Internet Book Store for anything else you’d written. Now that I’ve read this book and know your names, I’ll be looking for you more often.
The daughter of her hometown’s former mortician (who sold out to a slimy corporation after her mother’s death, married his young cosmetician and moved to sunny Florida – yeah, they don’t get along), Ginny Lavoie turned her back on the small town in the Berkshires 15 years ago and except for her mother’s funeral, hasn’t come back. But she’s not the kind of person to refuse the desperate plea of her BFF and the cop in her responds to the obvious fact that the wrong man has been arrested for the brutal beating death of her friend’s son. Even though she’s not on the police force here and has actually just been suspended from duty from the NYPD, Ginny begins the poking around and asking questions.
She warns Sonya that murder investigations often turn up things about the victim that loved ones don’t want to know. This case soon proves the rule. Even though they think living in a small town and knowing everything about everyone insulates them from crime and brutality, the town residents — mostly all people Ginny grew up with or knows — begin to see the town’s placid image blurred as secrets are unearthed and more bodies pile up. And Ginny discovers that while she’s survived the streets of NYC for 10 years, someone in her small hometown is willing to attempt murder to keep her from learning the truth.
“The Mortician’s Daughter” is a mix of police procedural and cozy murder mysteries. I haven’t read enough police procedurals to know if all those details are correct but nothing jarred me while I was reading it. Ginny does rely on some CSI type stuff but she also uses sleuthing, her brains and her instinct honed by years on the force. The whole comes across more like A&E’s Cold Case series than any sensationalized ‘over in an hour’ prime time show.
However I think the book excels as a cozy. Ginny knows these people and the places. Some things might have changed a little but within minutes of arriving, she’s back in her memories — both the good and the bad. You describe this town and its people so well that I can see it and them. Ginny’s knowledge of all that plus her skills as a cop are what help her finally break the case. I loved the investigation part of the book but will have to admit that the final resolution of the first murder comes from left field. It does make sense once it’s revealed and it’s not as if you were dropping lots of possible suspects’ names as red herrings so perhaps this is a type of murder mystery that I don’t have much experience with.
I like that you mix humor in the story to counter the darkness of the deaths and the secrets revealed. And as the tag for this review indicates, another thing that Ginny faces upon her return is her unresolved feelings for her first love. Things ended badly when she left and Jimmy doesn’t let her off easily after they start to renew where they left off. But there’s true love in there somewhere; these two just have to work things out.
“Jesus,” she said. “You don’t beat around the bush.”
He shrugged, ran a nervous hand through his reddish-blond hair. [snip] “Look at us,” he went on. “We’re almost thirty-five years old. Neither one of us has had a decent relationship since the day we broke up. You even been close to marrying somebody else?” She shook her head. “Me neither. That’s gotta tell you something.”
“Maybe it tells me we’re both maladjusted freaks.”
“Then we stick together,” he said. “Because nobody else’ll have us.”
She smiled; she couldn’t help it. “That’s for sure.”
“So what do you say?”
“Excuse me,” she said, “but have you noticed that we live on two different planets?”
“I know that. Believe me. And there’s no way I could ever live in that city, and I know there’s no way you want to move back here.”
“So let’s go for it anyway.”
[snip] “For chrissake, I’m the woman,” she said. “I thought I was supposed to be the hopeless romantic.”
“We’re all screwed up,” he said with a laugh. “I bake bread, you beat up guys twice your size. It’s a good thing I’m confident in my masculinity.”
I laughed all the way through this story but the fine characterization of the people and the resolution of the crimes is what kept me riveted. B+