Fictional Undertaker’s Suspenseful Journey of Deceit, Death, and Desire – Tethered by Amy MacKinnon

Boston area bred, debut author Amy MacKinnon, uses her hometown surroundings as the setting for undertaker, Clara Marsh’s suspenseful life experiences, in Tethered (Shaye Areheart, 2008).

Clara is employed at the Bartholomew Funeral Home. The Home’s owners, Linus and Alma Bartholomew, befriended Clara when she moved to Brockton, Massachusetts upon completing mortuary school. The couple lost their only child, Elton, soon after high school graduation. Clara’s familial void and their parental need established affinity.

“Nature’s Bounty: The Care, Keeping and Meaning of Flowers,” is referenced throughout Clara’s narrative; educating readers about floral sentiments: “When the time comes, I’ll bury her with white violets (unabashed candor).”

Clara discovers a mysterious child named Trecie, approximately eight years old, frequenting the parlor. Trecie’s neglected appearance, and her inquisitive nature about the undertaker’s childhood (an avoidable topic), cause Clara distress. Then, one day, Trecie disappears.

Is Trecie’s absence linked to Brockton’s unsolved savage crime three years ago? A young, unidentified, decapitated girl, christened Precious Doe at her funeral; was found in a string of woods stretching from Brockton to Whitman Massachusetts.

When Brockton’s Charlie Kelly dies, Clara is sent to retrieve his body. Brockton Police Detective, Mike Sullivan, arrives to sign off on Kelly’s death; since he was a friend. While there, disturbing sexual videotapes of a young girl and a man are found. Clara is shocked when she realizes the child in the footage is Trecie.

Sullivan befriends Clara to help find Trecie, identify Precious Doe, and her killer. Sullivan is no stranger to heartache himself. Around the time of Precious Doe’s discovery, a drunk driver killed Jenny, his beloved wife, and unborn child. Both rest in Colebrook Cemetery across the street from the funeral home. Clara frequents the grounds after dark, honoring her self-imposed obligation to tidy the graves of the unloved. It’s there that she often secretly sees Sullivan paying homage to his family’s headstone. Precious Doe rests nearby.

Haunting memories of Clara’s past tarnish her ability to show affection and love. Born illegitimately, Clara lost her mother in a car accident when she was seven years old. Raised by her grandmother, a religious zealot; the only books permitted in-house were the Bible and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Clara’s “sins” were often punished by her grandmother’s use of a boars-hair brush forcefully tugged through her hair. Her most egregious transgression occurred in high school, igniting her grandmother’s furor. Her resultant hair clipping required a decade of re-growth.

Mother Greene (the 85 year-old parent of Reverend Greene, a close friend of the Bartholomew’s) presciently tells Clara about two men who will impact her life, “One will die trying to save you, and the other trying to kill you.”

Tethered reminds us that people aren’t always who they appear to be, as revelations about its main characters surface. Harm does befall Clara in the story’s resolution, as Precious Doe’s identity and killer are revealed, and Trecie’s disappearance solved.

Mackinnon’s literary talents shine, as she details Clara’s vacillation between consciousness and unconsciousness, and her will to live or die: “All at once I need to breathe, but can’t. The pressure inside my chest explodes against my lungs. Pain is everywhere. I’m carried along deeper, faster, and I’m so very, very cold.”

Mackinnon shares, via her website, childhood recollection of her uncle’s funeral parlor. She was privy to his basement workspace of concrete walls stripped bare, and steel tables angled with their feet tilted toward porcelain sinks. Steel shelves with jars of formaldehyde and other foreign substances also prevailed. These and other elements enabled MacKinnon to authenticate an undertaker’s workday.

MacKinnon’s writing is finely displayed in her first offering; and is an author worth discovering. Read Tethered and join MacKinnon on what promises to be an exciting literary journey from its inception.

Visit the author online at Tethered was discovered via the Read It Forward Program. Here, forthcoming books by new authors are distributed free of charge. You participate, agreeing to pass the read on to someone else to enjoy once finished. Learn more at