Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 January 2022 from Hodder & Stoughton
Death is not the end. For Grace McGill, it’s only the beginning.
When people die alone and undiscovered, it’s her job to clean up what’s left behind – whether it’s clutter, bodily remains or dark secrets.
When an old man lies undetected in his flat for months, it seems an unremarkable life and an unnoticed death. But Grace knows that everyone has a story and that all deaths mean something more.
Author C.S. Robertson has created a distinctive voice in Grace McGill. A cleaner who takes care of the dwellings of the recently deceased, she takes an exceptional pride in her work. Grace is a fabulous character and one who does not always make the best choices.
Original and immersive, this is a book that messes with your head and confounds your expectations. The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill is the story of what happens when Grace McGill thinks she has found a similarity between the most recent houses of the dead that she has cleaned.
Robertson’s central character is lonely, dedicated, sometimes a little obsessive about creating perfection in her work. Bleach is her friend. In her life there is only George, her cat and a father who is both abusive and needy and to whom she attends with the penance of a dutiful daughter who resents each and every task she undertakes for this poor excuse of a man. Grace leads a solitary life, alone and a little damaged, we feel, but with a real sense of purpose in her life as she makes the lost found again – she sees them and that comforts her.
It’s not a happy life that Grace leads, but she takes a kind of contentment from honouring the dead through her work. And it is that need to honour the dead that drives her to consider the link between her last three death cleans. These were lonely people, too. Each left undiscovered for some time. Grace hates that there was no-one to visit these people; no-one to know that they had died and to mourn them. So she often goes to their funerals, too.
And when she discovers that link, she is compelled to see where it leads her and the result is a dark, compelling mystery that fascinates and absorbs the reader in the mystery and puts Grace in real danger.
I absolutely loved this character. So well-drawn, with such a distinctive voice, Grace is unlike any other character I have met. Robertson’s story is a dark, psychological thriller that drops surprise bombs all the way through the narrative. The characters are down to earth and richly drawn and the plot line absolutely riveting.
The sense of place is fabulous, especially the parts of the book set in Bute, which sing with the pleasure that this island brings to all those who visit.
Verdict: Distinctive, compelling, rich and surprising, this is a beautifully plotted book that delivers in all the right ways and Grace McGill is a character you will not forget. Dark and delicious, like the best chocolate this book will melt a little when it reaches your heart. Highly recommended must read.
A former journalist, Craig Robertson had a 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper before becoming a full-time author. He interviewed three Prime Ministers, reported on major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. He was pilloried on breakfast television, beat Oprah Winfrey to a major scoop, spent time on Death Row in the USA and dispensed polio drops in the backstreets of India. His first novel, Random, was shortlisted for the 2010 CWA New Blood Dagger, longlisted for the 2011 Crime Novel of the Year and was a Sunday Times bestseller. He has been both longlisted and shortlisted for writing prizes. He now shares his time between Scotland and California and can usually be found on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic.