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    Review of THE UNDERTAKER'S WIFE by Loren D. Estleman (see his website)

    Forge, August 2005

    Richard Connable has a unique talent to restore the dead, to make them look alive, give restore their missing limbs, give them expressions that reflect the personality they had in life. That talent, along with a smile and his caring attracted his wife, Lucy, to him in the first place. But Connable is not content to pursue the trade in his father's shop--he wants to see more, to be master of his fate. Thus, he packs his small family, first to San Francisco, then to Hays City, Kansas, Buffalo, New York, Chicago, and other locations. Lucy goes along--supporting his decisions, preserving contact with Richard's aging father, and raising her young daughter, Victoria.

    San Francisco is booming in the post-Civil War period, and death is in no short supply. But Richard's success in his art make him a target for a more established undertaker--and Richard learns a lesson of wealth and power. He puts that lesson to use in Hays City where he finds himself the undertaker Wild Bill Hickock turns to to bury the men the notorious lawman shoots. Success however, makes him no more willing to stay than did failure, and Richard continually moves on.

    Author Loren D. Estleman (see also reviews of mysteries by Estleman) brings the late days of the 19th century to life. Progress, science, and business loom large--with the focal event of the story, the recreation of a wealthy industrialist, dead by suicide, reflecting all of these trends. Both Richard and Lucy find it difficult to express their emotions, despite, or maybe because of the terrible trauma that life, and their wandering lifestyle, provide them.

    THE UNDERTAKER'S WIFE is a fascinating examination of an earlier time in American History, of a relationship between a man and woman that somehow sustained both of them, and somehow destroyed each, and of a morbid but compelling profession--that of a man who spends his life dealing with the dead--and attempting to bring them back to a semblance of life. Estleman fans will want to get their hands on this strongly written story.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 11/01/05

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