It is a well known and well established fact that I don’t like to be scared. No horror movies. No R.L. Stein books as a kid and certainly no Stephen King. Yet the bulk of the appeal of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder to me was that it gave me the creeps. As in it is late at night, the trees are brushing up against the window, the wind is howling and I’m reading this book and my heart is starting to pound a bit harder, my breath is catching in my throat, and I’m looking over my shoulder. And I liked it. This book achieved the impossible: it turned a wimp into a fear junkie.
Violet Ambrose can see dead people. Ok not exactly, this wasn’t a remake of the Sixth Sense but she can sense dead bodies. This not so perky-power of hers developed as a child when she’d smell a unique (non-decay) scent to the body of the birds her cat would kill, or even more morbidly, when she followed an aura to discover a recently murdered dead woman. Her uncle, the Chief o f Police worked tirelessly with her parents to keep her talents undiscovered and to let her live as normal a life as possible. And for a while she could. She was able to grow up with her lifelong best friend Jay, who’s kind of dreamy and ferociously protective of her, and maybe likes her as more than a friend?
Unfortunately, Violet’s reprieve didn’t last long, because the man who murdered the first girl she found, is back. It’s at this point that the novel legitimately begins to get creepy. Violet’s sensing echoes of these dead bodies and can’t escape it. Everywhere she turns she smells or feels their remnants making it impossible for her to ignore. Despite curfews and increased security in school and in town, Violet, as most young heroines, tends to ignore the rules. Admittedly, this annoyed me greatly. Personally I don’t think that teenage girls are completely incapable of considering their own safety – nor will they always choose the dumbest action possible, (e going running in the woods where all the girls have been killed by herself without telling anyone). I realize it’s necessary to isolate your heroines for the plot to progress, I just wish authors everywhere would do it without making teen girls, or even females in general, seem so irrationally dumb.
As Violet’s determination grows, as do the echoes of the dead bodies, she makes the mother of all dangerous decisions and decides to find the killer herself. Her BFF Jay seems to agree with me that it is reckless and stupid to do so, but he won’t let her do it on her own. While this brings Jay and Violet closer, and allows them to discover their non-platonic love for one another, it also begets the true creepiness of the novel. By seeking the killer, she makes him aware of her, thus making her a target. What’s even better is that the reader is sporadically given the perspective of the serial killer. There’s something terrifying about being in the mind of something so evil and that itself is scarier than the scenes in which we experience Violet’s fear. The fact of the matter is we know that she is scared of the unknown- of what he might do to her, whereas we know exactly what he wants to do to his victims and that knowledge is terrifying.
The novel climaxes with a number of discoveries that are both joyful and terrifying. Throughout the whole story the reader is led through a nice balance of a love story between two friends and the suspense of having a murderer on the loose, and being the girl who always knows where to find the bodies. It’s a good mix that allows readers who like to be scared to be fulfilled as well those who picked up the book because they thought it was best friends-to-more story. It nicely fulfills both sets of requirements, and the sequel, Desires of the Dead due out in March promises to keep that same feel alive (pun intended).
If you’d like to try-before –you-buy you can read an excerpt of The Body Finder. If you’ve already read the book and would like to win an author signed ARC five months early for Desires of the Dead go follow the rules on Kimberly Derting’s blog to win! Make sure to tweet her about this review @kimberlyderting and comment below telling us what your favorite scary book is!