Book Review: The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel
Denmark's "Queen of Crime" brings the mystery Stateside with a Danish woman who must deal with both a funeral home she's inherited in Wisconsin and a local murder
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., July 20, 2018
Danish mystery author Sara Blaedel, creator of the popular series starring Det. Louise Rick, introduces a new heroine with The Undertaker's Daughter. Ilka Nichols Jensen travels from her home in Copenhagen to small-town Wisconsin to tidy up what remains of her estranged father's estate. In the process, she finds herself tangled up in an unsolved murder from years ago as she struggles to keep the creditors at bay at the funeral home her late father left behind.
Her father pulled this trick once before, abandoning Ilka and her mother when Ilka was a child and leaving her mother to deal with his gambling debts and a funeral home in the red. Now it's Ilka's turn to clean up the mess, and she soon finds herself handling arrangements for a murder victim, which sets her on the trail of the original crime that rocked the community.
The Undertaker's Daughter is a solid murder mystery, less reliant on immediate danger and suspense than on atmosphere and the grim details of human death. If you accept the initial premise that Ilka would find herself suddenly owning a funeral home in America after signing a piece of paper without looking, then it's a decent read featuring a troubled protagonist. That she would agree to not only own the funeral home but then decide to keep it is a stretch.
Still, the funeral home setting is a useful one that offers plenty of mysteries, and there are abundant opportunities for detailed discussion of what happens when the human body dies. The pacing is calm and thoughtful, and the dead in this story feel like a silent audience to the dramas of the living.
The Undertaker’s Daughterby Sara Blaedel
Grand Central Publishing, 336 pp., $26