Steve Holden’s début novel puts us inside the head of a transsexual mortician living in a small Tasmanian town. It could be a stifling and lonely place to be, but the nameless protagonist draws us persuasively into her world. As a mortician, her job is to disguise death, but as a storyteller she is able to illuminate it for our benefit.
The tale unravels during the busiest weekend in the history of the mortuary. As she prepares three bodies for burial, she reflects on her difficult life. Methodical and ordered in her work, it is her heart that is a mess. We feel for her. But the effect Holden has on the reader is that of an ambidextrous push-and-pull: his narrator keeps us at one arm’s length whilst drawing us closer with the other.