THE UNDERTAKERS Is a Story You Want To Hear

The Undertakers 
Written by Nicole Glover
Published by Mariner Books
November 9, 2021
Paperback, 429 pages

At the end of my review of Nicole Glover’s first book The Conductors, I made comment that “If this is the start of [her] career as a writer, I look forward to what else she has ahead. I would even like to see more stories in this period. It could be a fun universe mixing genre into this period of history.” Well, it looks like someone was listening because Christmas came early with her sophomore book, The Undertakers.

This story picks up a couple months after the end of the first book, with Hetty and Benjy Rhodes settling into their new place, a new job as undertakers, and of course, solving mysterious problems that arise. Fortunately for them, their two businesses tend to work well together when they converge. This story is about a couple of deaths in a family, some magic-resistant fires, and a treasure hunt enchanting the minds of the local population. Usual stuff for the sparrow and finch.

As they start to investigate the strange fires, they come to a house completely spared by the flames and the beginning of a tunnel system under the streets of Philadelphia. Knowing that the tunnels existed to help travelers on the Underground Railroad, their journey leads them to the underworld of black market magical items run by a ghost from their past. For Hetty and Benjy, missing items, old nightmares, fires, and the pile of murdered bodies are not a coincidence; however, trying to tie them all together with who and why is not so easy. Through a series of oddly placed events and strangers, they are able to smoke out the culprit (sorry for the pun) and have another successful ending while discovering the some of the deeper secrets of those close around them.

Did I mention in my review of her last book how much I enjoyed her weaving of stories and plots? She still does not disappoint. I will say that this story was not as tightly spun as it was in The Conductors, but Glover also does not fail at it. It is impressive to have one story with so many different side lines that don’t get left behind. She puts nothing in these stories that don’t have a purpose which keeps the reader tuned in. One instant missed could confuse you thirty pages later. Of course, this made it more difficult for me to choose my reading times to make sure I was awake enough to pay attention….

I also enjoyed the relationship between Hetty and Benjy. Even though they’re married, at the end of the last book it became a romance rather than a relationship of convenience for the work they did. Now they openly express their feelings and you see how easily they settle into the relationship that they already had and the new level of concern over each other’s safety.

Glover also gives us more insight into the pasts of Hetty and Benjy’s friends, and as they learn more, they discover what motivates the bad guys. We had already learned some of the basics of the people around Hetty and Benjy, but now that we’re past introductions, Glover is able to jump right in with them and use them however she needs them to bring the story together.

I think that’s one of the best parts about this book: She does just jump right in. She gives minor background but assumes the reader knows who these people are, so she can skip right ahead to the meat of the story. Even if the reader is new, jumping into book two without book one, Glover peppers just enough information to not leave her reader in the cold, which also works as nice little reminders for returning readers.

If Nicole Glover decides to continue down the story path of Hetty and Benjy Rhodes, I definitely will be a returning reader. Once again, she’s dazzled me with her story telling, a critical part of our history while weaving magic in it without being out of place. I would think it would be tricky and go sideways easily but Glover manages not to get lost in her attempt to mix the fantasy world into our history.

I’ll say it again, and yes, I’m quoting myself: “Her storytelling seems effortless and well thought out. She left no stories unfinished. I’m sad I have finished the book but I will keep my eye out to see what Nicole Glover comes out with next.”

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