Let the dead stay dead.
Clara Marsh is an undertaker. She spends her solitary life among the dead and bids them farewell with a bouquet from her own garden. But Clara’s carefully structured life shifts when she discovers a neglected little girl, Trecie, playing in the funeral parlour, desperate for a friend.
It changes even more when Detective Mike Sullivan starts questioning her again about a body she prepared three years ago, an unidentified girl found murdered in a nearby strip of woods. Unclaimed by family, the community christened her Precious Doe. When Clara and Mike learn that Trecie may be involved with the same people who killed Precious Doe, Clara must choose between her solitary but steadfast existence and the perils of binding one’s life to another.
Clara’s search for the girl pulls her into a spiralling series of events that threaten to endanger the few people Clara has grown to love – and finally brings her own tragic and long-buried past to the surface.
The Unforgotten by Amy MacKinnon Review
A Tragic Story that will Stay with you Long after the Last Page
December was an even more hectic than usual month. On top of all the usual Christmas hullaballoo we had the crazy notion that adding an international move with two kids to the mix would somehow be a good idea. How wrong we were. By the time New Year came around and my feet had hit solid ground in France, I was so frazzled that I couldn’t even recall my own phone number. Time to curl up in front of the fire with a good book and recharge the batteries.
With a huge pile of books waiting to be read, I was spoilt for choice. My last three books of 2018 were all about the Holocaust – not exactly light reading – so I planned to start 2019 with something light, fluffy and easily digestible.
And then “The Unforgotten” appeared on my Kindle.
“The Unforgotten” is more dark and disturbing than light and fluffy. The main character, Clara, is an undertaker and the book opens with a graphic description of her at work. Heavy going for someone as squeamish as me!
However, once I got past this I was very quickly hooked. The story has many layers and I couldn’t wait to find out how everything would fit together.
Clara struggles to leave her traumatic childhood behind but although I couldn’t help feeling sympathy for her, I didn’t warm to her character at first.
She struggles to form normal relationships with the living and seems a whole lot more comfortable with the dead. But as I got deeper into the book, I started to appreciate Clara’s bluntness and self-awareness as well as her slightly unexpected love of flowers.
When a neglected young girl begins playing at the funeral home, Clara is reminded of her own unhappy childhood. Trecie reminds her of her younger self and she feels compelled to try to save her. But her difficulties with emotional attachment prevent her from getting too close and Trecie disappears.
As the story develops, Clara finds herself and those around her being drawn into increasingly dangerous situations. Three years earlier, Clara had prepared the body of an unidentified girl whose mutilated remains had been found in nearby woods. She begins to make connections between Trecie and the murdered girl but is Clara a reliable narrator or is her own childhood leading her to see things that are not really there?
The book is beautifully written and it’s easy to get completely absorbed in the story. All of the characters are described so well that they come alive, even the more unsavoury ones.
As the story began to unfold, I found it harder and harder to put down. The tension built and I found myself holding my breath, my heart racing, as the story reached its climax.
Amy MacKinnon doesn’t shy away from some very unpleasant topics – child abuse, paedophiles, drug overdoses, domestic violence, broken marriages, murder, bereavement and terminal illness all feature. It’s not an uplifting book but it certainly opened my eyes to some of the shadier things that go on in our society.
Sharp, captivating books like this are often let down by their endings so I approached the final chapter with a degree of trepidation. I need not have worried. MacKinnon tied things up skilfully leaving enough loose ends and unanswered questions to keep me thinking about the book for a long time after I had read the final page.
Published by: Trapeze
(Many thanks to Trapeze and Tracy Fenton for inviting us to take part in this blog tour.)