Tuesday, August 9, 2016

and another badass mommy hits the streets. Sigh. Woman of the Dead, by Bernhard Aichner

Scribner, 2015
279 pp


 The main character of this novel is truly one of a kind -- a young woman, happily married to a cop with two little daughters, who has a unique occupation: she's an undertaker, running the family business after the death of her parents some eight years prior to when this story begins.  But the fact that she's comfortable around dead people isn't what makes her stand out.

Blum is married to the love of her life, Mark and all is perfect in her world until one day her husband is killed in a hit-and-run accident. When she's finally able to start to pull herself together, she takes on the task of cleaning out Mark's stuff.  It's then that she runs across a series of conversations between Mark and a woman -- all professional, no hanky-panky -- but Blum's curiosity gets the better of her and she listens.  As the conversations get darker and more serious, she is convinced that the investigation  Mark was running had a major connection to his death.  She does what any normal person would do and runs to the police with her information, speaking with Mark's friend and trusted colleague, who assures her that the woman in the recordings is nothing but a liar. In short, he says there was nothing to any of this, and she should forget about it and go on with her life.  But Blum isn't convinced -- there's something about this mystery woman that catches her attention, and, of course, if this all has something to do with Mark's death, she wants to know. Eventually, she begins to realize that Mark was into something really ugly and really deep, and that his death was more likely a murder to keep him from getting too close to the truth.   So she decides to look into things herself, and ends up setting herself on a course of revenge.

When it comes down to it, this story has all of the elements of a typical badass heroine thriller, with a dark, actually psychotic twist involving her past that helps her do what she does once she has revenge in mind. But I do have to say that this book didn't set my heart racing as I think it was intended to do.    First of all, I figured out the BIG reveal quite early on so finishing this novel became a game of waiting to prove myself right.  Let's just say that guessing the who and the why has happened to me before, but when it happens so very early in the story, it actually wrecks things for me beyond repair.  And absolutely nothing after that point in this book made me question myself whatsoever.  Way too easy --  I think when someone is writing a crime novel, considering that his or her audience is probably full of seasoned crime-reading veterans, there should be the added bonus of an actual mystery going on.  Second, there is so much violence here that for me, at least, it was not at all a pleasure to read.  But those are minor issues compared to my third, which is that everything happens and falls into place so unrealistically easily that there was no challenge whatsoever in the reading.  I mean, seriously -- if you're going to write a thriller, shouldn't it be thrilling? Whoever wrote the dustjacket blurb saying this book is "Vivid, tense, and written with breakneck narration" probably needs to go back and read it again -- I didn't see any of this in here.

I feel absolutely awful when I don't like a book that I know someone has put so much effort into but I can't help it in this case.  On the other hand, a huge number of readers gave this book high marks and enthusiastic praise, so anyone considering this book should probably decide about it on his or her own. As for me, I'm just so done with badass mommies in a big way.

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