Select one of the keywords
Confessions of a Deathmaiden    by Ruth Francisco order for
Confessions of a Deathmaiden
by Ruth Francisco
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What an unusual mix. First there's the story's heroine, a deathmaiden, who does not assist death, but rather acts as a kind of spiritual midwife to help those who are ready to pass on. Add to the mix an obscure Mayan culture that once practiced cannibalism, the smuggling of antiquities, biogenetics and the high-tech harvesting of organs, along with assorted acts of mayhem, and you have an exciting read.

The author tells us that 'For all their machines and tests, doctors cannot measure the soul. They keep the body alive, suffering, while the spirit, in turmoil, is ready to move on.' For her novel, she invents a Society of Deathmaidens, whose role is to 'assist during the final hours of death labor' and whose spiritual training gives them abilities (which include reading a patient's future) to help, far beyond what the typical hospice worker can provide.

Tall redheaded Frances Oliver is an experienced deathmaiden in LA, called to assist ten-year-old Tomas Gomez (supposedly brain-dead) to pass on. She arrives to find him dying, and a medical team standing by to harvest all his organs. Driven by guilt at having let the child down, and with a small jade carving as a clue, Frances begins an investigation that leads her into personal peril on many occasions.

Her eccentric friend Pepper provides assistance and comic relief, and a new photographer acquaintance named Jack is good for a hot romance. Soon Frances is on the run from the law and from hoodlums' bullets. She heads to Mexico and seeks out Tomas' family amongst the Tarascan Indians, has run-ins with guerrillas, hears an unusual explanation for the fall of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations, and finally discovers what happened to Tomas.

Though a little rough around the edges, Confessions of a Deathmaiden is a compelling read, with much food for thought about the priorities of our medical system and the ethics of organ transplantation.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews