Remains of the Dead...A Book Review
By Wendy Roberts
A Mass Market Paperback Mystery from Obsidian Mystery, an imprint of the Penguin Group. ISBN: 978-0-451-22268-8.
A book review by Marianne Plumridge
‘The Remains of the Dead’ is the first book in a new series by mystery author Wendy Roberts. Sadie Novak is the protagonist of the story, who owns and operates Scene 2 Clean, a biohazard recovery team that cleans crime scenes once the police have finished with them. That in itself would be a complicated career, but Sadie has a few added disadvantages: she can’t keep new help for long, and she talks to the dead.
Five years previously, Sadie’s beloved older brother, Brian, took his own life with a shotgun. And when there was no service available to clean the scene, it fell to Sadie to accomplish herself, to save her family any more grief. Brian was a happy go lucky type who had a great relationship with his two sisters, and they loved him right back. There was no suicide note, no indication that he was unhappy, let alone depressed enough to take the ultimate ‘out’. And Sadie couldn’t see him when he’d gone. From the time she was little, she’d been able to see and easily communicate with the earthbound ghosts who didn’t know or wouldn’t admit they were dead. She continues to help them crossover when she can, and find their way ‘home’, but she can’t see the ghosts of suicide victims or those who’ve made it to the other side on their own as spirits. For five long years that intense grief of never knowing why Brian did it, nor be able to say goodbye to him, has gnawed at her heart and soul. Strong and feisty, Sadie found that she couldn’t stand the idea of other families losing loved ones and then facing up to cleaning up the remains of their mortal shells, so she formed her own cleaning company to do it for them. Her staunch belief that no friend or family should ever have to see what she’d seen, or do what she’d had to do after Brian went, keeps her going.
But sometimes the ghosts complicate things.
Three people know about Sadie’s ability: her employee, Zack, who is barely able to tolerate it; her sister, Dawn was still adjusting to the idea; and her best friend, Pam, who wants her to go on ‘Oprah’. So it gets that much more difficult when a ghost tries to tell her that the other half of a murder/suicide she’s cleaning up after didn’t commit the crime. Trying to discreetly handle the Police, the deceased’s distraught parent, and personal commitments gets rather trying for Sadie as her curiosity digs her deeper and deeper into the affairs of the real killer. Framed, shot at, nearly seduced by the too-damn-sexy-by-far chief suspect, as well as her unresolved attraction to Zack, leads her a dangerous dance on a knife edge, while simultaneously trying to keep Scene 2 Clean operating and in the black, despite rumours and bad publicity. And in the meantime, there are the ghosts: some desperate, some funny, and some too poignant for words. Sadie gets incredible satisfaction from helping them, and a feeling of momentary inner peace for doing good. Pity it couldn’t translate into the chaos of her own life and issues. Sadie seems relatively comfortable in her self-professed curse, until an encounter with a 'medium' of a different type forces her to confront her own issues about it and others' gifts. Sadie's antagonistic meeting and grudging friendship with the psychic, Maeva is at times both rambunctious and funny. And downright dangerous. This new friendship is probably what Sadie needs, as she and Maeva are two fiesty sides to the same coin.
Sadie’s professional and sometimes reluctant personal relationship with Zack is deftly written and leaves the reader wanting more. They both have pasts, troubles and issues, but they work well together - anger, friction, disagreements, blood, guts and gore, danger, and obvious attraction aside. Pam’s running commentary on Zack’s scrumptious butt is fun too.
Fascinating and bemusing, and written with great style and edgy cleverness, this fast paced book will have you unable to put it down. Trust me, I know. And far be it from me to cheat any reader of the punch-line ending that will leave you in tears.
All I have to do now is wait for the yet untitled sequel to come out in December of this year. Meanwhile, according to Ms. Roberts, she is busily working on the third installment of Ghost Dusters. Hallelujah.
Wendy Roberts blog is at: http://www.wendyroberts.blogspot.com/