The Undertaker's Wife

Loren D. Estleman

Forge Books

The undertaker's wife waits; she weaves; she builds.

The undertaker practices his art, the Dismal Trade, with consummate skill. He has raised it to an art through the high craft of the Connable Method. Through it, he has managed to transform the ugliness of death into a thing of dignity and beauty. Victims brutalized by war, street fights, tavern brawls, ambushes, fires, every hazard in a raw West---these, in his hands, become presentable. Everywhere on the frontier, which erupts with life and death, he offers his skill: to the rich of San Francisco, the bawds and ruffians of the Barbary Coast, to Kansas cowboys, outlaws, soldiers, and sheriffs. He is devoted to dignifying the dead.

She is devoted to making her marriage whole, in spite of the tragedy that surrounds it and, most especially, in spite of the tragedy that in one terrible afternoon strikes at its center.

Today the undertaker is called to disguise the suicide of a famous financier. It is high drama, for only his art can save America's financial markets. Her task on this day is secret, an act of understanding and dedication.

In the end, it is the undertaker's wife who, through love, is able to transcend death.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.


Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Elihu Warrick entered his first-class stateroom aboard the Michigan Central, laid out his cigars and placed his portable bar in its morocco-leather case on one of the seats, removed his shimmering silk hat and gray Chesterfield, and gave them to the porter for brushing. When the porter returned forty-five minutes later, carrying the items in a new pair of white gloves, he found Mr. Warrick slumped on the seat opposite the bar and cigars, indisputably dead.

Certainly the porter, who had performed as an orderly in a Negro troop hospital during the war with


Praise for The Undertaker's Wife

"The tale of a master executioner written by a master storyteller: What more could you ask for?"---Elmore Leonard on The Master Executioner

"One feels and smells the gallows and hears the snap of the second cervical vertebra. It is a remarkable book and one I would urge you to read."---The Amarillo News & Globe-Times (Texas) on The Master Executioner

"This is definitely a novel worth reading."---The Roanoke Times (Virginia) on The Master Executioner

"A master craftsman at storytelling, Loren Estleman spins a fascinating and macabre account about a forgotten craftsman of the Old West, the professional hangman."---Elmer Kelton on The Master Executioner

"Estleman's prose snaps like fresh linen Treasury bills, using a cold-eye-of-God style for a type of fiction-truer-than-fact stretching back to Defoe's true-fact novel A Journal of the Plague Year."---Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on The Master Executioner

"Mr. Estleman movingly conveys the brutalizing effects of killing for the law, even when you are terribly good at it."---The Economist on The Master Executioner

"A wonderful storyteller who generally doesn't get the serious critical attention he deserves because he writes in genre, Estleman delivers an unforgettable Western shrouded in tragedy and death."---Publishers Weekly's "The Year in Books" on The Master Executioner

"Estleman has given us a somber, yet compelling, story [with a] crushing conclusion."---The Denver Post on The Master Executioner

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Loren D. Estleman

  • Loren D. Estleman, the author of more than fifty books, is admired for both his novels of the West and his crime novels. A nominee for the National Book Award, he has won five Spur Awards. Estleman lives in Michigan with his wife, author Deborah Morgan.
  • Loren D. Estleman Deborah Morgan





    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Undertaker's Wife

    Loren D. Estleman

    Spur Awards - Winner, Spur Awards - Winner


    Forge Books