The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C. S. Robertson is the type of book that once read is not easily forgotten. The impact lingers for a multitude of reasons, but they all boil down to the fact that Robertson is a gifted talent who uses all the tricks in the authorial toolbox to elicit real emotion from the reader at every stage of this journey. This should not come as too much of a surprise, given that C. S. Robertson is a new penname for Craig Robertson, who has already amassed a loyal readership based on previous novels. The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill will certainly satisfy those existing fans, but it is also poised to be a breakout book that expands Robertson’s readership exponentially.
Grace McGill is a character unlike any previously seen on the crime fiction landscape. She is a loner – and a lonely – woman whose level of empathy seems infinite. Her chosen career involves crime scene clean-up, but of a very specific type. Grace McGill will come in and sanitize the homes of people who passed and remained undiscovered for extended periods of time. Because of her solitary life, Grace feels a connection with these individuals on a visceral level, horrified that their lives were so empty that no one even noticed they were gone. Grace is meticulous in her work – not only making sure that any harmful toxins have been removed from the premises, but also doing general cleaning and straightening-up as a sign of respect for those forgotten people. Grace even attends their funerals, which is just one of many decisions that seem to indicate her bond with the deceased borders on the unhealthy.
It is at the clean-up job following the discovery of Tommy Agnew’s long-decaying body – and the later funeral – that Grace notices some strange coincidences that lead her to believe there is a larger story at play with this man’s death. Among Agnew’s belongings, Grace finds a photograph taken years earlier in Bute, Scotland and her research into this past is about to expose secrets that have been buried for far too long. Secrets that will lead to other deaths. Secrets that Grace McGill cannot remain silent about.
The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill is told entirely in the first-person voice of Grace McGill – an inspired decision that instantly bonds the reader with this unforgettable character. That choice also allows for the many mysterious secrets to unspool slowly, despite the police involvement that Grace’s insights elicit. The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster, never avoiding the difficult aspects of death, so readers should prepare themselves. The journey is as much about Grace McGill’s self-assessment as it is about the larger mystery that propels the plot. Each reader will turn the last page having their own personal opinion regarding various aspects of the novel, which ensure that this is a novel that will be discussed for years to come.