Grand Central Publishing
February 06, 2018
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Already widowed by the age of forty, Ilka Nichols Jensen, a school portrait photographer, leads a modest, regimented, and uneventful life in Copenhagen. Until unexpected news rocks her quiet existence: Her father–who walked out suddenly and inexplicably on the family more than three decades ago–has died. And he’s left her something in his will: his funeral home. In Racine, Wisconsin.
Clinging to this last shred of communication from the father she hasn’t heard from since childhood, Ilka makes an uncharacteristically rash decision and jumps on a plane to Wisconsin. Desperate for a connection to the parent she never really knew, she plans to visit the funeral home and go through her father’s things–hoping for some insight into his new life in America–before preparing the business for a quick sale.
But when she stumbles on an unsolved murder, and a killer who seems to still be very much alive, the undertaker’s daughter realizes she might be in over her head . .
The Undertaker's Daughter was a different type of story than I was expecting. Based on the reviews quotes on its NetGalley page (and the one on the cover, as well), I thought it would be more of a crime thriller. Instead, it felt more like a literary fiction tale that included a mystery surrounding a crime. (Perhaps, a small bit of that had to do with the tone and attitude of the book; it was originally published in Danish and, generally, Scandinavian books feel less . . . intense than their US counterparts. I think, though, that it was just this story.)
This was a story about Ilka, a school photographer in Denmark. Her father left her and her mother when Ilka was a young girl and she never knew why. Now, with news that he has died, she has been summoned to Racine, Wisconsin to hear his will.
Wrapping things up so that she can return to Copenhagen and her life turns out to be much trickier than Ilka anticipated - both emotionally and logistically.
I did very much enjoy seeing Ilka try to figure out the new role she'd been suddenly thrust into while also trying to discover more about her father and to find the answers she was only just realizing how much she wanted. Adding in the small(ish) town politics, the murder mystery and present day repercussions (and possible actions) made for an interesting story. All of the interwoven tales and histories, along with the observations on the differences in Danish and American culture surrounding death and funerals, made for an intriguing read.
I do wish I had known when I started this book (or at any point while reading it) that this was the beginning of a series.. Some of the story does get concluded, but a lot more is left open and unresolved. So much so, actually, that the book ends with To be continued . . . Those endings work better when I know they're coming. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the second book featuring Ilka and, hopefully, finding out what Racine has in store fro her - and if she stays.
digital review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley