Death Watch: The Undertaken Trilogy, Book 1
Death is a topic that stirs up rich and different emotions in every person. It is often seen as a final act, one in which the individual is mourned heavily and then never seen or heard from again. The dead also do not have a say in what happens, and all their regrets and memories are buried along with them. There are a host of people and jobs that play an important role in the death process, and while they seem pretty straightforward up front, they are a bit more complicated than most think. Silas Umber’s father, Amos, was an undertaker, and Silas couldn’t have been more wrong about what he did for a living.
"The dead do not always get to tell their stories, and I’m especially impressed by the delicateness in which author Ari Berk explores these lost and often sad stories through the eyes of young Silas Umber."
Amos would travel back and forth each day from the sleepy and cryptic town of Lichport, where he worked, to Saltbridge, where he lived with his wife, Dolores, and son Silas. Silas would wait patiently on the porch for his father’s arrival until that fateful day when Amos doesn’t come home and there is no explanation for his sudden disappearance. Fearing the worst, Silas and Dolores settle quietly into their grief. The future appears grim until Silas’s uncle (Amos’s brother) arrives to take both Silas and his mother to live with him back in Lichport.
Strangely enough, although Amos worked everyday in Lichport, he had never taken Silas there to visit. Despite his best efforts to appear uninterested, Silas couldn’t help but notice the numerous graveyards that dot the land throughout Lichport. No wonder his father was a busy man. Silas begins to explore his surroundings day by day as living under his uncle’s roof proved tumultuous at best. His uncle appears to be hiding something, and the strange noises that constantly emanate from the attic make Silas nervous. Everywhere that Silas goes around Lichport, though, people come up, introduce themselves, and express their gratitude. What exactly is this place?
Silas soon discovers that his father was more than a simple undertaker and that Amos was responsible for bringing peace to the spirits of the dead. Amos left behind a Death Watch, a device that allows the owner to see the dead, and Silas soon starts to interact with the different ghosts inhabiting the dark and desolate places of Lichport. Death isn’t pretty, however, and Silas is surprised and saddened by all that he finds.
Even more, the people of Lichport are expecting Silas to take over his father’s job and become the new undertaker. Silas has a lot to learn, though, and if he isn’t dealing with his shady uncle, he is obsessing over his father’s disappearance and death. An undertaker needs to be focused on others’ needs, and it appears as though Silas may not be ready for what’s to come.
DEATH WATCH is the first book in a gothic trilogy that explores the untold stories of the dead. Like any good gothic novel, it has mysterious people lurking around every corner, and any number of grotesque and hideous secrets could be hidden in the attic. The dead do not always get to tell their stories, and I’m especially impressed by the delicateness in which author Ari Berk explores these lost and often sad stories through the eyes of young Silas Umber. I’m eager to see what new adventures await in the second installment.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on January 22, 2012