A misfit Australian teen reluctantly pursues a strong connection with the dead to solve a murder.
After Sophie Teague’s parents die in a motorcycle accident, she carries on with life as best she can, helping her loving Gran run an unpretentious bar and hotel in an ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood of Melbourne, but remains poleaxed by grief. Though she switches schools for “a fresh start,” her lanky, 6-foot frame and brilliant mane of curly red hair render getting through her last year of high school under the radar an impossible dream. When a pleading, faintly malevolent spirit appears, wordlessly insisting that Sophie settle some karmic debts, the kindhearted teen does the right thing, even at great personal risk. Her good deeds result in brutal attention from the meanest girls in school as well as assistance and romance from Jordan, whose tough exterior belies a tender heart and considerable skill as a necromancer. As in her triumphant The Astrologer’s Daughter (2015), Lim carefully unspools her tightly plotted fantastical mystery with a reluctant, socially maladroit heroine and an unlikely partner at the center. Her insistent focus on murders of people at society’s fringes and the ability of teen girls to right truly foul injustices are both most welcome, though they don’t quite overcome the letdown of a too-hasty conclusion.
Readers will hold out hope for a second installment set in Lim’s richly imagined world. (Paranormal thriller. 14-18)