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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Life and Death in Birkenhead by K.M. Tarrant


Life and Death in Birkenhead is a debut novel by a New Zealand writer, and it’s chilling enough to give Stephen King a run for his money.


We are introduced very early on to Gerald, who works as an embalmer at a mortuary in Birkenhead. He’s had a cruel, depraved streak since he was a child, but he’s learnt to hide his tendencies. To strangers, he comes across as good-looking and can turn on the charm when needed. To his workmates, he comes across as aloof and a bit of an oddball. But all agree he is excellent at his work, and local residents have no hesitation in entrusting him with the bodies of their recently departed loved ones. Apart from one person, no one knows about his atrocities on the dead. But it’s not long before it isn’t enough to satisfy his urges, and he turns his attention to the living…


Meanwhile, Maisie is working hard at school and preparing for her big OE. She has no idea that her world will collide with a monster living and working in suburban Birkenhead.


Life and Death in Birkenhead is a well-written psychological thriller that will scare the pants off you. It’s an unputdownable read, although I had to skip the odd paragraph in some places because I was too scared to read more in-depth! The author has worked as an embalmer, and this inside knowledge really takes this novel to the next level. She’s created a literary monster to fear, but thankfully there is much goodness in Maisie’s character, so the novel has admirable light and shade in it. Like me, I’m sure you will keep turning the pages to see what happens next and wonder if Gerald can be stopped.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Mary Egan Publishing

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