Friday, 3 February 2012

Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

When Aaron gets a job at a funeral home, he surprisingly takes to it. But there are dark secrets hidden in Aaron’s subconscious. He experiences dangerous bouts of sleepwalking and recurring dreams he can’t explain: a lifeless hand, a lipsticked mouth, a man, a gun... Can he piece the clues together and fi gure out the truth of his past? - Blurb from Goodreads. 

The Dead I Know is suspenseful story that is grim, dark, slightly surreal, and yet bitingly real. We are first introduced to Aaron, the teenage protagonist, as he is applying for a job at a funeral parlour. Unshaven and uncommunicative Aaron is revealed in the opening paragraphs as being someone who keeps his thoughts, feelings and words to himself. Right from the beginning there is an air of mystery surrounding Aaron. In the opening chapter Mr. Barton, remarks on Aaron’s peculiar accent and asks Aaron if he would know his parents; Aaron’s answer ‘hung in the air like a balled fist’.

The mystery of Aaron is what drew me in and kept me captivated, as I waited to see how the story would unravel. Aaron’s strange and bone -chilling dreams are peppered throughout the story and leave the reader, and Aaron, feeling unsettled and on edge.  Even though the story is told entirely from the point of view of Aaron it is extremely hard to get a grasp on exactly what is going on and very little details are revealed surrounding Aaron’s past, yet the reader can’t help but like him. The way he cares for his Mam who is becoming forgetful and showing signs of dementia makes the reader feel sympathy and to care for this young man who is been dealt a hard lot in life.

The language is simple and the style easy to read, with short chapters that keep the story moving along. Given the subject matter, and the setting of the funeral parlour, the narrative is at times disturbing and might make some readers a little squeamish when the characters are dealing with the dead. Yet there are moments when the story breaks free from this gritty realism and there are sparks of humour and light throughout the book. Ultimately the story is hopeful, and is surprisingly more about living than dying.

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