A curious stand-alone from the creator of Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker (Bone Box, 2017, etc.): a New Mexico teen tracks down clues in the rape and strangling of his older sister three years ago while he faces the pressure and angst common to all high school seniors.
The police have never solved the murder of Ellen Vicksburg. Detective Sam Shanks, of River Remez Homicide, suspected Tim Sanchez, who had a crush on Ellen, and tried to link her death to the work of Billy Ray Barnes, the Albuquerque Demon, to no avail. But Ellen’s brother, Ben, has never given up. He’s still surfing the web for material about similar homicides and meeting regularly with Shanks, who likes the boy but can’t help wishing he’d go away. Ben’s obsessive focus on his sister’s death has naturally taken a toll on his social life, but with the arrival of Dorothy Majors from New York, things seem to take a new turn. Though she’s nominally the girlfriend of football star JD Kirk, Ro reaches out to Ben repeatedly, sympathizing with his loss, taking him seriously in a way his other friends don’t, and signaling that her liaison with JD is more a matter of status and convenience than genuine attraction. As Ben painstakingly gathers information he hopes will identify Ellen’s killer, the turning points in his investigation are consistently linked to pivotal moments in his relationship with Ro: their quarrels, their rapprochements, their debates about the senior prom. The result is a peculiar amalgam of one-quarter amateur detective work and three-quarters high school romance, like a Stephenie Meyer epic with a serial killer substituting for the vampires.
The mystery, with a forgettable killer whose most serious threat against the hero is slashing his tires, gets buried in the coming-of-age story. If you want to spend 700 pages revisiting the normal yet fraught rituals of adolescent romance, though, here’s your chance.