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If you, at age six, had to begin work in preparing bodies for funeral directors–your parents– what effect would that have on you?
For Brum, it taught her to shut down her emotions, right up to the day she allowed her parents to drown. She took over the family business, reinvented and remarketed it, built it up as a successful business, but always dedicating herself to giving dignity to the deceased.
Her life is gently comfortable, until she sees her husband–police officer and father to their two daughters killed by a black car slamming into him on his motor bike. Her life is upturned, as she grieves, listens to her late husband’s phone calls on his cell phone, and discovers he was spending time interviewing and calming an aggrieved young woman.
Emotionally bereft, Brum finds comfort in the companionship of her husband’s best friend, police officer Massimo. She is driven to find the woman her husband had been consoling, and when she does, is horrified to learn of her tormented life as a captive. Gradually she draws more and more information about the woman’s torturous life, whom she invites to stay with the family. One morning, the girl goes shopping for the family, and never comes home.
Massimo tells her of the discovery of a drowned homeless woman, whose body is in the police morgue. Brum is driven to track and remove each of the young woman’s tormentors, aided by her mortuary assistant, Reza – a man with his own criminal past. He is detached from emotion after years of creating trauma and serving time, but warms to the welcome Brum’s family have given him.
Her tracking of each of the sadists and what she does when she succeeds makes gut-churning reading, which in turn makes it impossible to put down the book – in case what you imagine is worse than what is written next.
The resolution is a reveal of a shuddering discovery, and handled in the same way as with the first three sadists. I’d have read this in one session, but starting in the late evening made it impossible. Guess what I was reading over breakfast next morning. I hope to be reading more from Aichner, and soon.
Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty
Woman of the Dead
by Bernard Aichner
Published by Weidenfield & Nicholson
Paperback ISBN: 9780297608486
Case bound ISBN: 9780297608479
Also published on Lynne’s own blog, Red Penn Reviews