Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Tethered" by Amy Mackinnon

I read this book several months ago, and it's taken me this long to really think about it and how I felt about it. Yeah, it's one of those books. It's a debut novel that had a lot of good press going for it, not to mention the interesting story, so I was very interested in reading it. I also loved the cover art - very eye-catching and made me want to read it that much more.

The story seems basic enough. Clara Marsh is an undertaker, a very quiet woman who believes that the dead should be dead. She shows great understanding of the people she works on, giving the reader a sense that she sees them as people, not just bodies. She leads a simple, rather introspective life, perhaps wishing for something more, but satisfied with things as they are.

When she's called out to a pick up a recently deceased Charlie Kelly, she meets Officer Mike Sullivan, who tells her that the police have been receiving anonymous calls about a little girl that was killed three years ago and a very special birthmark that was on the back of her neck. The same birthmark that Clara saw when she prepared the body for the funeral - but never told police about. A birthmark that has haunted Clara these three years.

As the plot unfolds, Clara becomes more attracted to Mike, and more involved in the murder case of the Precious Doe. She also meets a young girl at the mortuary, Trecie, who seems to come and go at will and has no sign of any parents. The mortuary's owner, Linus Bartholomew, seems to know Trecie and is content to let her play in her rather unusual "playground". But Clara believes the girl is somehow connected to the Precious Doe case, and her mere presence becomes unnerving. Does she have information about the case? Did she know Precious Doe? Is Clara getting closer to a killer?

I haven't really done justice to the plot, but then again, the book is very complex. To say more would more than likely give away things best left to the reader to discover. What I can say is this - I did like the book, but didn't love it as I had hoped. It's a very compelling read, and obviously thought-provoking if I'm still mulling it over after these several months. But I wish Mackinnon has fleshed out her characters just a bit more. I wanted to know more about Clara, more about Mike, even more about Linus and his wife. There were things that weren't explored that I remain curious about. I almost wish that Mackinnon would write a sequel about Clara, even though there's really nothing to warrant one, just because I want to know more about her. Overall, I give it a decent read rating, and hope that the author's sophomore work (if she puts one out) is better.

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