A thorough, and thoroughly ghoulish, primer on death rituals.
While DS Diane Fry tries to puzzle out the identity of the anonymous caller cryptically suggesting that he’ll murder unless she stops him, DC Ben Cooper has two tasks: discover who shot Graceless, Tom Jarvis’s hound, and put a name to the pile of female bones found in the woods at Ravensdale. Facial reconstruction leads to the identification of Audrey Steele, but Ms. Steele was supposedly cremated 18 months ago, the funeral handled by the venerable firm of Hudson and Slack. If she wasn’t in the casket, who was? The trail to the answer will wend past the Eden Valley Crematorium—and include much discussion of decomposition rates, body fluids and the comparative weight of male and female final ashes, with gruesome historical insights provided by a haughty thanatology professor—before settling down to outbuildings on Alder Hall, an unoccupied estate up for sale. Arson will impede the investigation, and more bodies will pile up before Fry and Cooper’s original cases collide in a bang-up finish.
Fry and Cooper (One Last Breath, 2006, etc.) are not the most companionable characters to spend time with, and their author’s penchant for lecturing rather than storytelling is another turnoff. Fans of real-life body-snatchers Burke and Hare, however, may find some refreshing moments here.