Better as a mystery than a coming-of-age tale but not even fully successful as that

DEAD INVESTIGATION

A psychic 17-year-old learns to talk to the living, while an adult detective catches a serial killer in this sequel to Dead Connection (2006).

Murray’s only friends are the dead teenagers who talk to him at the cemetery and Pearl, the cemetery caretaker's daughter, who befriended him when she helped him use his ability to speak with the dead to solve a murder in the previous book. Pearl's father, Janochek, allows Murray to live in a cemetery shed since the boy's unwilling to live with his prostitute mother. But despite the friendship of Pearl and Janochek, Murray is introverted and shy. While Pearl angrily pushes him to further develop his psychic powers, Murray develops an attraction for a dead girl, a cute-as-a-button dancer he'd seen from a distance while she was alive. Meanwhile, Murray's old ally/antagonist, Deputy Gates, seeks clues about a rash of missing homeless people. Along with his fellow officers and a social-worker girlfriend, Deputy Gates does legwork worthy of a police procedural. In interwoven segments of choppy, fragmented prose conveyed in shifting points of view that give all the characters a similarly odd, adult voice, Deputy Gates, Murray, Pearl, and Janochek observe these two scarcely intersecting storylines. The sense of fragmentation is heightened by infodumps about social work, homelessness, domestic violence, and the criminal justice system. The resolution owes more to adult efforts than to Murray's powers.

Better as a mystery than a coming-of-age tale but not even fully successful as that . (Paranormal mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-30227-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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