I’d never heard of Michael Kimball until I saw his book Undone hiding next to the Stephen King books in my local bookstore. I picked it up, had a glance through it, and noticed a blurb written by Stephen King. He says some very positive things about the book and one of the words he uses is ‘moving.’ Now that I’ve read the book and am reading the words on the back cover for a second time, ‘moving’ is the word that stands out the most. Undone is an extremely moving book. It is also a very clever book with enough surprises and twist and turns in the tale to keep readers hooked all the way to the end.
Undone is set in the small town of Gravity, where Bobby and Noel Swift own the local Superette. Bobby and Noel are both very intelligent and make a handsome couple. In fact, Noel is described as being the most beautiful woman that Gravity or any other Maine town has ever seen. Herb True, whose wife works at the Superette, claims that the reason the store is so busy is because Noel serves behind the counter. He even goes so far as to say Noel causes more unplanned births in town than the Pope! So if Herb is right we are talking about a very good looking lady and it’s obvious from the very first chapter that her husband Bobby loves her very much. He also trusts her enough to put his life in her pretty little hands.
The Superette is a thriving business and the Swifts are doing well, but the income from a small business in a small town is chicken feed when compared to the $2,000,000 Bobby has hidden in an account in the Cayman Islands. With the IRS and The Treasury Department watching his every move though, Bobby has little chance of ever being able to enjoy his hidden hoard. All that money really belongs to the bank and Bobby acquired it by slightly dodgy means—one of the bank’s loan officers helped him out there. The loan officer is now in prison, but he is due to be released soon. When that happens he will expect his cut of the money. All in all, it seems to Bobby that the best thing that he can do is die. No one comes looking for a dead man.
Bobby has learned how to manipulate his heart and has used his skill to convince the local doctor that he has a heart condition. Now, with the help of the local undertaker Elliot Wicker, Bobby intends to fake his own death and allow himself to be buried alive. Bobby will be underground for five hours, but he will have a heat mat hidden in his coffin and few tanks of oxygen. In his trance-like state, Bobby believes he should be able to make his air last for six to eight hours. He is not without worries though, because the only two people who will know that he has been buried alive are Noel and Wicker. What if something goes wrong? What if Noel gets delayed and fails to dig him up in time? Or what if either one of them should double-cross him? Bobby’s trusts Noel (almost) completely. His main doubts are about Wicker and he wonders if he should confide in his lifelong friend Sal. He almost does so, but in the end, he places all his trust in Noel.
Sal is an alcoholic, but he has his addiction under control and has been dry for a long time. When he hears about his best friend’s death all Sal wants is a drink, and when he finally allows the alcohol back into his life he loses his job teaching at the school but his family as well.
The morning after Bobby’s funeral something strange is found at his grave. A hand sticks up from the ground and points a gun at the sky. The men who tend the graveyard think it is a joke—a fake hand—but when they call the local constable, Alston Bouchard, he is not so sure and he starts to dig. It isn’t a rubber hand. It still has a body attached to it and it belongs to Elliot Wicker. Further digging uncovers an empty casket and the problem becomes a matter for the State Police.
One of the great things about Undone is the subplots, one of which involves Sal who becomes one of the central characters—will he manage to keep off the booze and if he does will he be able to win back his family? Another subplot involves Alston Bouchard. He is an interesting character and appears to have more idea about what is going on than anyone else in the story, but the State Police keep pushing him aside. It’s their show now and they only want him as a spectator. Then there is Sal’s wife Iris. She seems a little hard-hearted about Sal’s problems, but she has her reasons, and it is a long way into the story before the reader discovers what they are. Iris’ brother Jerry is also an interesting character and there is a lot more to him than meets the eye. Then there is Noel. She is sleek and sexy and a whole lot more, but this review has become a little too long already and so if you want to find out any more about Noel you will just have to read the book yourself.
Undone is a little over four hundred pages long and once I began reading I found it a hard book to put down. I notice on the cover that the publishers class the book as a thriller, and it is certainly a thrilling story, but it could also be classed as a horror story because few things are more horrific than being buried alive and Kimball describes Bobby’s experience inside the coffin in quite some detail. Scary!