The Mortician's Daughter
Elizabeth Bloom
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Buy *The Mortician's Daughter * by Elizabeth Bloom online

The Mortician's Daughter
Elizabeth Bloom
Mysterious Press
320 pages
August 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Suspended by the New York Police Department and currently under investigation, thirty-something Ginny Lavoie returns to her hometown of North Adams, Massachusetts, to investigate the death of Danny Markowicz, the nineteen-year-old stepson of Ginny's best friend from high school.

Handsome, athletic and beloved by all, Danny's sudden death comes as a brutal shock. Found on the floor of a deserted mill, he was beaten to death so badly no one could recognize him, his face so pulverized he could only be identified through dental records.

Jumping Jack O'Brien, a Vietnam Vet and the town's harmless lunatic, confesses to the crime. However, when Ginny visits him in prison, she discovers that he's a babbling mess and a professional psycho, and there's absolutely no way he could have committed the crime.

Ginny traces the clues back to Danny's birth mother, Paula, who allegedly left town twenty years ago to start a new life in the city. While Sonya was the kind of girl you'd hope your son might marry, her sister Paula was the kind you'd hope your son would steer clear of - a promiscuous truant and an expert manipulator.

Following one lead to another, Ginny turns to the Café des Artistes where she meets a bunch of groovy city boys – including Danny's friend Topher – whom Danny had been hanging out with just before his death. But were the boys more than just friends? And when the specter of crystal meth raises its ugly head, Ginny is by turns jubilant at this new information and depressed by a lack of progress in determining the killer

The questions keep piling up: why did Danny keep a loaded gun in his bedroom? What was he doing in that abandoned mill? Who could possibly have hated him enough to beat him to death? And why are the local authorities – led by an incompetent and corrupt cop - so eager to close the case?

Ginny is also hampered in her investigation by her past and her relationship with Jimmy, her childhood sweetheart; reconnecting with him re-opens old passions as well as old wounds. Obviously, the central aspect of this tale is Ginny's growth as a person and as a detective, and the fact that she shared a lot in common with Danny. Both yearned for a life beyond this small town, chafed at the shackles of their family's expectations.

Ginny is a gutsy, tough-minded, fearless cop, although she is branded as an outsider – someone who once left. Like it or not, she is soon thrust back into the inner workings of the North Adams hierarchy. Bloom skillfully presents the human condition, mining the subtle murkiness of this small town and how these essentially working-class people must cope with the aftermath of such a violent act.

Drug abuse, entrenched homophobia, religious and political hypocrisy, and the how the bereaved must cope with the loss of a loved one is at the center of this well-paced and quite persuasive crime thriller.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2006

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