There is a fine line between something being so farfetched it is simply ludicrous and something being so farfetched that it’s utterly compelling in a ‘But what if that really were to happen?!’ way. When you have a story that begins with a – noticeably living! – man reading his own obituary, it could go either way. Peter Talbott is aware of the obituary – there’s a reason he was presumed dead and buried. What he doesn’t expect is to be presented with an obituary for his wife, detailing her death in a car accident when he knows that she died from something completely different. When a little research uncovers several similar obituaries all linked by the same funeral parlour/director, Peter Talbott just can’t let it go, even though the consequences could change – or end – his life.
As with many masters of the thriller genre, Brown (no relation!) has taken an unusual and far-reaching premise and twisted it into an adept thriller. Yes, there are elements ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous but instead of being dragged under by these elements, The Undertaker seems to use them to simply propel the story further.
The true mastery of The Undertaker lies in the two central characters, Pete and Sandy. A grieving computer programmer and his quirky sort-of-but not-quite girlfriend may not seem like the most obvious heroes. Indeed Brown writes them up as ordinary characters, thrown into an extraordinary world and yet still managing to remain ordinary and, at times, almost comically banal. They gripe and bicker one minute, yet get caught up in the tension of sexual chemistry the next. It should make you wring your hands and say ‘For goodness sake – your lives are at risk’. Instead, these characters feel very real, very human and are very very fun. This is a thriller – it shouldn’t be full of smiles and quirks – but it is and it works.
If you’re a fan of thrillers, it’s definitely worth giving this one a try. The unexpected smiles and twists of humour are an added – and welcome – bonus.Originally published on Book Bags and Cat Naps. I received a copy in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.