The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, published by Headline in 2010
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.
This is an amazing debut by author Kimberly Derting. I was so engrossed in the story that I literally could not put it down. It's one of those books that compels you to keep turning the pages because you're so desperate to find out how the story's going to end. I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through! Reading 'The Body Finder' is like a white knuckle rollercoaster ride; you're enjoying it and everything's going smoothly, but you know that moment's going to come when you just have to hold on for dear life as you get swept away.
The story is brilliantly original. Violet is just a teenage girl like any other but there's one thing that distinguishes her from the rest - she can see and hear the echoes of death, both on the victim of a murder and the person's killer. This ability is first introduced to the reader when Violet is 8 years old and discovers the bodies of dead animals which she sets about burying and putting at rest. Her ability becomes vitally important when it's discovered that there's a serial killer on the loose in her close-knit home town. Violet can't stand by and do nothing and becomes determined to find the killer even if it means putting her own life at risk. What I thought was clever, is that this ability is portrayed as naturally as any of the other four senses of taste, touch, feel and smell. Although it's not really explained how Violet became like this, it's accepted that this has always been a part of her and something she's grown up with.
The narrative alternates between Violet - who is sensitive, caring and compassionate and the serial killer who is stalking his prey. This juxtaposition serves to emphasise the horror of the situation and really gave me a creepy feeling. My stomach was in my mouth most of the time!
What I loved about this book were the elements of mystery and suspense, which were all beautifully wrapped up with the romance between Violet and her bestfriend Jay. He's one of the few people, besides her family, who knows her secret and because of this he's extremely protective and is always looking out for her. Some of the scenes between the two of them are so incredibly sweet. When I'd finished the book I went back and read some of them over again. I wish I knew a Jay - Violet's a very lucky girl! I enjoyed the way that Kimberly Derting made their relationship really real. They get annoyed with each other sometimes, they bicker and they have petty squabbles, just like any other couple, but they're also incredibly attune to each other.
'The Body Finder' is fast-paced and driven and utterly nail-biting. The climax builds and builds to the point that you're heart starts pounding and your mouth goes dry. I'm so excited that Kimberly Derting's follow-up, 'Desires of the Dead', is going to be published by Headline in March 2011. I'm not sure if I can wait that long but I'm also dying to see where the story's going to go next.
Thanks to Headline for sending me this one to review.