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Book pick: ‘Echoes’ from the dead make ‘The Body Finder’ intriguing YA debut novel June 20, 2010

Posted by Diana McCabe in Reviews/summaries.
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Violet Ambrose hears dead people. The 16-year-old inherited the ability to sense the “echoes” the dead leave behind — the dead who have been murdered — from her grandmother. When a serial killer comes to town and starts murdering teen-age girls, Violet steps in to track the killer, who retains the imprints of these echoes.

Pretty heavy for a teen, eh? But author Kimberly Derting, in her debut novel THE BODY FINDER, manages to weave the suspenseful and at times disturbing story of a serial killer together with the life of a teen-age girl who is struggling with all of that other awkward stuff like snotty high school seniors, the guy you don’t want to date — and the guy you wish you were dating — to make this YA story a fast and interesting read.

Derting is really telling two stories here, and at first that’s  a bit confusing. There’s the story about Violet being able to hear the echoes from the dead and track the serial killer. But a second storyline focuses on Violet and her best friend, Jay Heaton, who seems to have suddenly gotten more handsome and charismatic over the summer, leaving Violet confused about their relationship. It’s obvious to everyone around them — and those reading the book — that they will wind up together. OK — maybe it’s not so obvious to some of the characters in the book who compete for the teens’ affections.  But it’s  kind of charming if you’re in one of those moods where you want to relive those angst-ridden “does he love me or love me not” days.

The really intriguing part of the story: The echoes Violet hears. The dead who were murdered call out to her. Not just human dead. As a little girl, she’d find small animals that had been killed. Sometimes by her own cat. The echoes dim once the dead have been properly buried and the unnatural death somehow resolved.

Walking through a cemetery, the sounds reach out to her.  She hears the “echo” — sounds of fireworks popping — of Edith Bernhard, who died at age 65. What happened to her? She didn’t die a natural death. A man who died in his early 30s has an echo that smells like strong coffee. He died more than 40 years ago but still calls out.

Even more interesting is that these echoes aren’t just one way. A murderer — or even someone like a police officer who has killed in the line of duty — retains the echo of his/her victim. So Violet can sense a killer based on that imprint. That’s how she tracks down the murdered girls’ hidden bodies and their killer. (Yup — she even senses the imprints on her cat!)

Her family knows about her ability — as does her uncle, who is the chief of police in her hometown. And her buddy Jay — who can be way overprotective and overbearing as guys go — knows, too. But Violet is a teen with her own mind and does her own thing — so she’s not some helpless heroine.

The ending — which I won’t give away — is a little predictable.  The serial killer conclusion is wrapped up in a way that leaves you feeling rushed after the insights that Derting gives us throughout the novel by alternating chapters with the killer’s thoughts and building suspense. But I liked this novel because Derting kept my attention. She didn’t go overboard with descriptions or emotions. And the whole concept of the echoes was compelling. I’m also  curious how this new YA author will develop the echoes idea and characters in the next book of this series, DESIRES OF THE DEAD, due out next March.



1. Diana McCabe - June 20, 2010

OK — I know some of us get a little wiggy when it comes to YA books but let me know what you think. I think I might try and interview the author. I met her at a book signing and she just seemed very interesting and willing to talk about her writing. Holler if you have any questions for her. (OK — and for once — no vampire or werewolf in this one!)


2. Lisa Champ - June 23, 2010

This looks interesting. I like the idea of the echoes being more than just a dead person calling out, but also the idea of the imprint on a dead person who has killed and where that can lead. Very cool. I’ll have to make a note to try to read this sometime.

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[…] Echos from the dead make ‘The Body Finder’ an intriguing YA debut […]

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[…] Echos from the dead make ‘The Body Finder’ an intriguing YA debut […]

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[…] Book pick: Echoes from the dead make ‘The Body Finder’ intriguing YA debut novel […]

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