Title: The Undertaker
Author: William F. Brown
Page Count: 624 KB (Kindle format)
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review- check out his blog at Bill Brown Writes Novels
Pete Talbott is a California native and harried Boston computer wonk still grieving over the death of his wife Terri, when he found himself at the wrong end of Gino Parini's .45 reading his own obituary torn from that morning's newspaper. Talbott figured it was all a big mistake until Parini showed him his wife's obituary too, and this was a mystery Talbott couldn't leave alone. From a funeral home in Indiana, to car chases on the Dan Ryan, a bloody Back Bay townhouse, snipers in New York City's Washington Square, sleazy lawyers, corrupt County sheriffs, mafia hit men, the FBI, an army of Chicago cops, and that unforgettable scene in the upper berth of an Amtrak Train, "The Undertaker" is a thrill ride with a touch of humor and romance. Someone with a penchant for sharp scalpels and embalming tables is planting bodies under other people's names; and if Talbott doesn't stop them, he and his quirky new girlfriend, Sandy Kasmarek, will be next on the Undertaker's list.
This story was delicious. Snarky and wired, cynical and funny, it was everything a good mob thriller should be and more. For me as a reader, a thriller needs to be able to make me forget that the violence is actually violence and that crappy people are just that and make me want to see how all the elements come together; The Undertaker certainly delivered on that promise.
Pete Talbott has the unfortunate problem of people never seeming to grasp that he's not dead. He was falsely reported as dead in a car crash in Mexico, and just when that was sorted out, he was reported as dead again, this time in a hospital in Ohio. Still reeling a year after his wife truly did die of cancer and with nothing else really keeping him going, he travels from Boston (where he now works) to Ohio to figure out what is going on and why this problem keeps popping up.
In terms of immediate well-being, it would have been much better for Peter to just go home and eat a coffee cake and take a nap. If he hadn't started down that road and started asking questions that made a lot of very powerful people very uncomfortable and sort of itchy, he never would have had about a million problems. He also never would have met Sandy; some might argue that the coffee cake was still a better option, and then Sandy would kick them.
Turns out there's something seriously rotten in the state of Ohio, as Peter Talbott is not the first person to die there under the circumstances set out in his (second, and also incorrect) obituary. Peter can't let sleeping dogs lie and goes to the library to do some research, and from asking the right questions he's able to piece together a rough sketch of the situation fairly quickly.
This quickly gets him into trouble with people who'd rather their extracurricular activities remain under the radar and sends him on the lam (I always wanted to write that!) and leads him to Chicago, where he hopes to gather more evidence to prove exactly what he thinks is going on.
That's where Sandy enters the picture. Sandy is one of my favorite characters in the story. She's funny, loyal, a total smartass, and not afraid to alternately take care of people or kick their teeth in, depending on what the situation requires. Sandy brings an emotional depth and hint of romance to a story that would have been adventurous but a whole lot of running around otherwise. Depth is good! Seeing these two hurting people overcome adversity (both internal and external) and figure out what they really wanted out of life was excellent. The ending was better than I could have hoped for, too. Just saying.
There is plenty of adventure to be had as we we careen towards the ending of this story; the author is firmly in command of the direction of the and nothing is left to chance. Every detail is important, and I caught myself doing the reader fist pump when I correctly figured out how a piece of the story fit into the bigger picture. I was sucked in as a reader and wasn't released until the story was over.
Bill Brown has graciously offered up THREE digital copies of The Undertaker to three lucky winners here at the giveaway carnival! To enter, just fill out the form below. Then, don't forget to navigate to the July 1st post entitled Why Read Indie Books? and comment saying you entered the giveaway for The Undertaker for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card! Make sure you leave your comment in the right place for it to be counted. Good luck!